It’s hard to know which is better – apple pie or an apple donut?
Mountain view or orchard view?
Apple slush or apple cider?
We’re not asking you to choose!
You can literally have it all at Holt Orchards.
As soon as the weather starts to even hint at getting chillier, we start imagining soft flannel shirts, cozy fires and crisp walks in the fresh air. We think about warm apple sauce (if you haven’t tried it, you MUST!), tart and crunchy apples paired with cheese and wheat crackers (or peanut butter, if you are a kid at my house), apple cider – hot or cold – and autumn mountain afternoons.
Travelers Rest earned its very name from the fact that it finds itself at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains – the escarpment, the beginning or the ending of the trek across the mountain. It’s a lovely drive, one we never regret making, across the state line into the mountains, to the picturesque neighboring town of Flat Rock, North Carolina – right in Henderson County, the 7th largest apple producing county in the nation.
Next time you’re feeling the siren calls of the season, head to Holt Orchards at 17 Holt Pond Drive in Flat Rock – almost exactly thirty minutes from TR.
I brought my two sons with me for our apple orchard tour last week – I was ready to bribe them with promises of apple slushes and donuts but they were eager to go just for the adventure.
You pass a few other orchards on your drive and you’ll find Holt Orchards on the left, an unassuming but tidy and welcoming metal barn with the garage door rolled up high to welcome you in when the shop is open. (Shop hours are Wednesday to Friday from 12 to 5, Sundays from 11 to 4.) If you are wanting their crisp apples or sweet donuts on a Saturday, you can find them locally at the Greenville Farmers Market.
Tracy greeted the three of us at the door and welcomed us into the inviting storefront. It’s both a shop and the apple production assembly line, but it was so clean it was shiny. We arrived a few hours before the store officially opened, but while we were chatting with Tracy about the day’s plans, two gentlemen saw the open door and popped in.
“I’m looking for those sweet little apples you had,” the man asked, an eager grin on his friendly face. The apple in question is actually called a Sweetie but Tracy knew exactly what he was looking for. Unfortunately, her news was of the sad variety.
“Those go fast – the season is already finished,” Tracy shared. Thankfully, there were lots of others to choose from – like a few remaining Honey Crisp and the equally delicious Crimson Crisp. (Probably our family’s new favorite!) The gentleman was easy to please and even though the shop was not actually opened, Tracy graciously helped him find what he needed – and smart man that he was – he said he knew his wife would be disappointed her favorite apples were out of season so he purchased her a darling leather purse that the shop had for sale as a consolation gift.
In fact, there are plenty of wonderful options in the shop – as consolation gifts when your fave apple variety is sold out or as treasures in their own right. Smoked salts, soaps, caramels, Holt t-shirts and more. As you check out with your purchases, you would be wise to surrender to the temptation to purchase fresh homemade pumpkin bread or slab pies or donuts, whatever treat is available that day. Tracy makes all of the pies and desserts herself and she’s a great baker!
Holt Orchards sells already picked apples and a large portion of their orchard bounty heads out on trucks and trailers to wholesale vendors – for local hard cider, apple sauce you find on your grocery store shelves, baby food, juice and more. (Local restaurants – Tracy and Todd are flexible and easy to work with, a great option if you’re looking for a large wholesale supply of nearby apples for your restaurant.)
While the farm is not a you-pick farm, there are future plans for potential private opportunities and photos in the orchard – check with Tracy if you’ve got an idea! We were lucky enough though to climb in Tracy’s Toyota and head around the sixty acres for a tour. Beauty was around every corner and the view was fabulous. After looping through the trees, carefully maintained and lovingly managed, we spotted folks picking apples and rounded the corner to meet the other half of the Holt Orchards team – Tracy’s brother Todd.
With a big grin and a quick laugh, Todd immediately bantered with my boys and made sure they knew apple slushes were in their near future. (They did not complain about this prediction, which, of course, came true.) We hopped out of the Toyota and strolled to the nearby trees for a few photos while Todd and Tracy shared their unique story and their path to becoming apple orchard owners and growers.
Trust me – it ain’t traditional. But it’s full of love and devotion and a shared commitment to the farm and to something bigger than the two of them.
“We always feel like we’re making up for lost time,” Todd shared when I asked him about the particular aspect of running a business with a sibling. Lost time might not make sense for siblings who grew up side by side, but that’s the twist in their family’s story.
When Tracy and Todd were 10 and 7, their parents divorced and each child went to live with one parent in states quite distant from one another. It wasn’t until Tracy was in college and her mom and brother moved to North Carolina that they were able to all live together again. Eventually their mother fell in love with a Vietnam veteran who dreamed of a family and an apple orchard. She remarried and together they created both by planting apple trees on a farm in Flat Rock.
Tragically, both their mother and their stepfather passed away far too young as the result of health conditions and the apple orchard was in need of caretakers. What started as a way to help out and to keep the farm running has turned into brother and sister team with a thriving orchard.
It’s a pretty place – the apples are dreamy, there’s a pond with a weeping willow and views of the mountains across the rear of the property. But what’s even more beautiful is the comradeship, the friendly banter, the family legacy that Tracy and Todd are crafting together through their days of labor and work and effort.
That vibe and charm flit in the breeze across the leaves of the trees and shine in their smiles as they serve together – storefront or tractor or market. When you visit Holt Orchards, you know you’re helping to support something bigger and better than just delicious apples and sweet desserts.