Lori MacKintosh owns and operates MacKintosh Fruit Farm, alongside her husband Bill MacKintosh. Orginially from Berryville, Virginia, she and Bill were high school sweethearts who inherited the farm from family about 28 years ago. Beginning with only peach and apple trees, they have expanded the farm and it now offers plenty of fruit and vegetable you-pick options! We sat down with Lori to ask her some questions about local ingredients, growing the crops, and the fun, exciting opportunities to be had at MacKintosh Fruit Farm.
What is your main goal or mission with the farm? What do you aim to do for your customers, and for society in general?
“We want people to care about their food. We want them to appreciate farmers, and to understand all the hard work that goes into farming fresh food. It is so important to know what’s in season and where the food comes from. And now with the younger generations growing up, we want to show kids how to care about their food.”
What do you do throughout the winter months? When would you say your season on the farm dies down and start back up?
“Well Bill graduated from Ferrum with a business degree, and he works as a consultant. I cut hair, that’s what I have been doing for years now, and my clients just come right here to my home. We both still work full time. He consults and I cut hair and then we also take care of everything here on the farm. The season ends around Christmas, and then starts back up around the end of March, so there’s really only January, February, and then some of March as the ‘winter months’. But there is still a lot of work to do on the farm even during the winter. We have to prune the apple and peach trees. We also have a nursery where we grow trees, so those have to be taken care of. ”
On your website you note that there are good bugs and bad bugs that come around when growing fruit – which bugs are good bugs?
“Well, Bill knows more about the horticulture and the bugs. But ladybugs are good bugs! They are good because they eat the other, bad bugs. Stinkbugs are bad bugs, because they can get onto the fruit and suck some of the juice out, which leaves them with a hard dented spot.”
Speaking of fruit that’s been tampered with, I’ve heard a lot lately about “ugly” fruit, and how it’s much less desirable just because it doesn’t look perfect. What do you think about that?
“We try to put the ‘ugly’ fruit to use in other ways, because we know that people usually will not pick them and we don’t like letting anything go to waste. We know that people only want to pick the pretty fruit. We will use the ‘ugly’ ones in recipes for juices, jam, pies, and other things. We also occasionally do specials on certain things, like if we have a lot of cucumbers, we will put them on special so that we can move them faster.”
Which fruit or vegetable requires the most attention and care?
“The fruit is definitely strawberries, and the vegetable, I would say tomatoes.”
Which fruit is most popular to pick at your farm? Which fruit would you say is underrated?
“The most popular fruit to pick are strawberries and peaches. The most underrated are the pawpaws. They are native here, and mostly grow around rivers. But they really only grow in September, and you can’t pick them, they just drop out of the trees.”
Is everything you grow pick-your-own?
“Everything except for the corn, potatoes, because they grow in the ground so they have to be dug up, and the pawpaws.”
Tell me more about the Farm Dinners that you host.
“Well awhile ago we noticed this trend started where people were doing ‘farm-to-table’ dinners and we thought, we could do that! So we started doing these dinners that go on once a month. They are during June, July, August, and September. We focus on one fruit and one vegetable, and we try to use what’s in season that month. They are open to everyone and are $40 per person. It’s a nice, sit down dinner. We serve soup, salad, a main entrée, and dessert.”
Do you have chefs for the Farm Dinners, or do you do it all yourself?
It is all done right here by us. The guests sit right here on the patio. When we started, we brought in some chefs to make the food, and then we realized that we could do it ourselves so we did. So now everyone who works here pitches in and takes over a job – one person will do the soup, and then everyone takes care of their own part of the meal.”
Besides the Farm Dinners, what are some other fun activities that you offer here?
“We host a lot of events. We’ve hosted everything from rehearsal dinners, to christenings, to weddings, to reunions. We have tried other activities in the past, but we don’t do too much of the ‘agri-tainment’. We mainly promote ourselves as a you-pick farm. And that has been good for us because we get people here that come from all over the place. Being so close to DC, we get such a diverse crowd of people who come to pick fruit. Eventually, we want to expand the patio area and do some hard cider taste testing. Our son Taylor has already started working on that. But that is something we’d like to do in the future. “
What would you say is the most important part of what you do?
“Growing the right kind of fruit for flavor.”