The climate, setting and soils of Lakeside Orchards are ideally suited for growing apples. That’s what an early landowner, Jacob Pope, concluded when he planted the first apple trees there in the 1870s. The farm, which once encompassed 5,000 acres, is now 189 acres with 8,000 trees. Each year, this productive orchard generates 13,000-18,000 bushels of apples which are sold to a number of wholesale markets including supermarkets in Maine, the Augusta school system, Colby College, Bowdoin College, and North Center Foods (which distributes to hospitals and institutions statewide). Lakeside also operates a busy retail store on Route 17 that is currently expanding to offer a variety of fresh produce, cut flowers, and baked goods, in addition to fresh apples and apple cider.
Lakeside Orchards defines and enriches the cultural life of Central Maine. Generations of residents from surrounding communities have come to pick apples, and enjoy this scenic setting overlooking Cobbosseecontee Lake. Visitors can sample 17 varieties of apples, including indigenous heirloom varieties. During harvest season, busloads of area children come to pick apples and take wagon rides through the orchards. The farm’s business plan calls for developing interpretive trails where families and school groups can learn about apple production, the farm’s history and resident wildlife.
Escalating land values and development pressures threatened to put an end to this cherished community tradition. Fortunately, when the long-time owners of Lakeside Orchards decided to get out of the business in 1999, they worked to find a way that their successful enterprise could continue. They leased the orchard for several years to a couple with extensive experience, and they began to research the possibility of selling off their development rights. This strategy can help keep land productive by preventing future subdivision and development, lowering property values, and making the land more affordable for continued agricultural use.
The State was able to acquire a conservation easement on Lakeside Orchards with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future program and the federal Farmland Protection Program. That easement allowed the apple growers who had leased the land to buy it–maintaining a business that will continue to enrich the regional culture and economy.
Please note: On private farms protected with Land for Maine’s Future Program support, public access is by landowner permission only.
Central Maine Lakes District – Kennebec, Androscoggin
Directions from nearest town DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer Map 12 B-4. From Augusta, take Routes 202/11/17 west. In the center of Manchester, turn right onto Route 17 (Readfield Road). Go approximately 1.5 miles to the Orchards (by a large sign, red barns and ample-sized parking lot).