Each within 30 miles of Hillsdale, two apple orchards provide the perfect fall fix of homemade apple cider, fresh from their own orchards.
Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm sits 20 miles outside Hillsdale and offers a plethora of Fall activities. From September through October, each weekend features a fall festival of wagon rides, a corn maze, a hot dog roast, pumpkin patch, pony rides, and a bar featuring live music, accompanied by their home-made hard ciders.
“We have evolved in the last 60 years from an apple orchard to a destination location,” Steve Meckley, second generation owner of Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm, said.
Purchased in 1956 by Meckley’s parents, Ray and Louise, this over-100-year-old orchard is still thriving today. Over the past two years, they have invested in the expansion of an outdoor wedding venue, and since 2011, they have developed hard ciders and wines.
One of the featured products of Meckley’s Flavor Fruit farm is their homemade hard ciders, offered in flavors such as cherry bomb, a cherry lemonade-flavored cider; or Third Coast, a peach-flavored cider.
“Our fresh cider is an apple cider with a blend of anywhere between four and seven varieties of fruit,” Beckley said.
They pride themselves in not adding preservatives to their cider, of which there are a total of seven different flavors.
“The cider was amazing. It was more fresh than I expected,” sophomore KayLynne Shaw said, who recently visited the farm for the first time and tasted their cider.
They hope to continue to expand, perhaps even into a U‑pick orchard in the next three to five years, adding to their U‑pick raspberry selection in the summer.
Pride and hard work runs through the farm, and Meckley is proudest of the fact that they are family owned.
“I am second generation, my children are third, and I look forward to the next 60 years of the orchard,” Meckley said.
Another orchard located just three miles northeast of Hillsdale is Glei’s Orchard and Greenhouse.
This 300-acre farm that houses 50,000 trees currently grows a variety of 30 apples.
Sarah Maier, the store manager of the Hillsdale location, said that one variety of apple that they offer unique to their farm is the Ambrosia apple.
“We are the only farm East of the Mississippi River that has these apples growing right now,” said Maier.
After Owen Glei, founder and former owner of the farm, got a hold of this apple, he ordered several trees before the patent was pulled, and began cultivating the crop. Just recently, the patent was released, but it will take time before other orchards in the area are able to produce ambrosia apples.
Glei’s offers two varieties of fresh cider: an apple variety and an exclusively Honeycrisp. Their cider is specially pressed through a UV machine to kill all bacteria and solidify the taste before jugging it.
Glei’s is a greenhouse in addition to an orchard, allowing them to offer a large spread of numerous home grown produce, including pumpkins, squash, indian corn, and other fall decorations.
Glei’s has opened another location in Coldwater, which houses their bakery. It features homemade donuts and cinnamon rolls.
On Oct. 8, the Hillsdale location of Glei’s will host a customer appreciation day featuring pony rides, orchard tours, vendors, and huge sales on their apples. All are welcome to attend.