Every fall from early September through later October the gates open to this enchanting farm (which follows organic practices) run by Michael and Sharon Yager. The tone is set when you pull off Highway 66 between Lyons and Longmont turning onto a tree lined drive with their over arching sign signaling you’ve arrived. I feel instantly transported as I wind through the quintessential farm buildings all painted in traditional barn red with white trim. This is a place you belong and you want to be.
During apple season you can make an appointment to come to the farm and pick from YA YA’s 200 varieties of heirloom apples (note: you may also visit the farm even if you are not picking apples). Our first visit was last year and we picked several varieties from the older orchard. We were so excited we made a second appointment that Mother Nature nixed with a wicked wind storm the night prior taking all the apples for herself.
As soon as early September arrived I made two appointments to pick apples this year. Our first appointment was two weeks ago and we picked in a newer orchard, again with so many varieties I could not keep them straight. Each offered a unique flavor profile and were delicious. For that orchard the limit was one bag (which they supply) which holds 5-8 pounds of apples.
The apple picking was only the start to our visit. They breed Percherone horses which are a large breed of draft horse. You are free to pet them or buy a basket of carrots for a $1 to feed them. When we were first there this season we were delighted to find several babies (which I will add are the size of a small normal full grown horse) making it all the more fun. You’ll also find a pair of donkeys, John Henry and Betsy , that have been together for 40 years and you can tell. They demonstrate same affection and alternating spite you’d expect in a couple of that duration.
A stand is set up with delicious pickles, vegetables, farm honey, food to order, pies, pre-picked apples and the crème-de-la-crème; apple cider donuts. Have you ever tasted one? Michael Yager who hails from New York had these as a childhood staple and has graced the Front Range with this pure delight. There is nothing that screams fall louder than the taste of these donuts.
An old fashioned cider press offers the opportunity to witness the process of the orchard apples becoming apple cider. Until you’ve tasted freshly made apple cider you really have not experienced apple cider at its finest.
Lastly they have a tractor pulled hay wagon that will tour you around the newest part of the orchard for $2. This area of planting will vastly expand the orchard in about 3 to 5 years.
If the experience and surroundings are not enough, a few minutes with Sharon and Michael is worth the drive. I’ve spoken with Sharon over our visits and to see her is to feel you’ve reconnected with your long time best friend. She’s happy, upbeat and funny, directing you to all the farm has to offer. Her hospitality feels more as though you are a treasured guest coming to stay with them for the weekend rather than being a patron for an hour or so.
As I was carting today’s apples to the car (which we picked from yet another orchard of ‘old standard’ Portland and Rome apples using apple pickers) a low voice asked me ‘what are you going to do with those apples?’ I turned around to find Michael the proprietor. We got into a lengthy discussion about the merits of lemon zest added to apple crisp per his baking lineage as well as his background of having been a professional soccer player, PE teacher ‘before he got into medicine’ and then the tale of coming to this farm and what they’ve turned it into. When cleaning up the orchard initially they started off selling apples at the Farmer’s Market and then allowing people to come to the farm. They quickly realized what people were most interested in was the experience of picking the apples more so than the apples themselves. Having been from the East Coast where fall apple picking is a cultural staple, he endeavored to afford the experience to Colorado locals.
YA YA Farm and Orchard also has a number of special dinners, celebrations, hay rides and more which you can learn more about on their website. This is an experience not to be missed!
Don’t miss OCTOBERFEST, SATURDAY October 17 11:00-3:00 p.m.:
$12 for ‘kids 8 and over’. Free for kids under 8. Cash or checks accepted.
BBQ chicken and pork, side dishes and non-alcoholic beverages (food by RibHouse) and apple cider donuts (of course!).
Hay rides for the family as well as apple cider pressing
Musical entertainment by the Tanglewood (who Sharon describes to be Jimmy Buffet’ish)
To be held outside rain or shine!
Tips if you go:
If you’d like to pick apples you need to contact the farm to make reservations (303-485-5585, or email firstname.lastname@example.org). They are open for picking Friday, Saturday and Sundays through the weekend of October 24.
You can still go to the farm even if you are not there to pick apples. You can buy pre-picked apples, enjoy the surroundings, the food stand, have a hayride ($2!) and soak it all in.
They estimate you would spend about an hour if you are picking and looking around. Since it is a smaller orchard I think that is about right. Our picking with the apple picker took a bit longer due to the maneuvering with the device but with horses, hay field and the gorgeous Rocky Mountains in the distance, how could you better spend part of a day really!
There is no entry fee to visit the farm. Bags of apples you pick (1/2 peck bags, which they provide, hold 5+ pounds of apples) range from $5 for less prime (but still completely delicious) apples to $10 a bag for others. Depending on where you are directed to pick there may be a limit on the amount (this year for the main orchards it is one bag). Sharon will tell you everything when you arrive. Check their website for the varieties available when you want to visit.