Binghamton is a place of experiences. It’s a place of roots, be they deep in history or the ground. Or both.
You’ll find roots of both varieties at Apple Hills, a family farm for more than 150 years. You’ll also discover an experience.
“The experience we hope to give people is to go and pick an apple and take a bite – right off the tree – and let the juice run down your chin,” Co-Owner Joy Johnson says. “Or have a sun-warmed strawberry right out of the field.
“[We want people to understand] crops are not grown in a cute little green basket at the supermarket,” she says.
Joy represents the fifth generation to cultivate this 300-acre hilltop filled with u-pick apples, strawberries and blueberries to go along with breathtaking views. The experience she grew up with is what she really sells, though.
“Farming is in our blood. It’s what we choose to do,” Joy says. “To plant a seed in the ground and watch it sprout to be something you can eat – it’s like a present every day.
“So many people grew up and maybe their grandparents had a farm they could go to. But, that just doesn’t exist anymore,” she says. “So, we invite people to come up and visit our farm and be a part of our family.”
She runs Apple Hills with her husband, David, who himself grew up on a dairy farm before studying at Cornell University. The Johnsons consider the generations of families that visit Apple Hills another crop of sorts.
“We want to see those families again and again,” David says. “We know a lot of people by their first names and their kids. It’s just a great way to make a living.
“It’s an honor to have people come up here and actually show them how we do things,” he says. “We want them to feel comfortable about where their food comes from and they’re excited to see what goes into it.”
It’s only natural agritourism would be a thing in BING. The area has long been a farming community, one that’s had a resurgence of its own this century.
“I think the agritourism business in the area is blossoming,” Joy says. “We don’t have the industry that we had … we had to go back to our roots.
“We’re very proud of our tradition on this hilltop and we do our best to take care of it for the next generation,” she says.
And in the Binghamton of today, filled with revival, the generations of visitors will no doubt continue to find their way to “the hilltop.” A creative class of entrepreneurs has been mining the past to create a vibrant scene of eateries, arts and even shopping in recent years.
“I see that the vibrancy is coming back,” Joy says. “The industry is gone and I don’t think it’s coming back. [But, Binghamton] is bubbling again and it’s so good to see.”
And the Johnsons connect themselves to it the best way they know how.
“Agri-tainment for us is a way to tap into that,” David says. “We want people to come up here, have a good time and see something different.”