There’s a sense of hope in the air for this upcoming summer. Masks are coming off, restrictions are lifting, and things seem poised for a return to some degree of normalcy. With people ready to get back to their summer activities of old, nobody is more excited for the influx of visitors than Blair Orchards in Franklin Centre.
Coming off a very strong syrup season, the orchard is looking to keep the ball rolling with a good summer as well. “The pandemic had some effects,” explains Michelle Blair, who is a big part of the orchards’ agritourism-based activities. “We weren’t able to have our band, we had to deal with vaccine passports, we had to limit the number of people in our stores – things like that.”
It wasn’t all bad, though, as some of the struggles imposed by the pandemic allowed them to flex their creative muscles. “Because things were challenging, we took the opportunity to try some new things, and some of [those] will definitely stick around. Opening up in the spring for our Maple Boutique went really well, for example,” says Blair.
Another silver lining for the farm was the fact that, due to orchards in bigger cities limiting the number of people allowed on the premises, Blair Orchards got some of the overflow.
“We had a lot of people coming in from Montreal,” says Blair. “We expect to get a lot of them this year too, because so many people told us how much they loved the orchard and how much they wanted to come back.”
Blair Orchards is known for variety and versatility, whether it’s because of the many apples, pumpkins, baked goods, and maple products available, or for the petting zoo, playground, live music, or any of the other options on offer. There’s something for everybody. But to Blair, the selling point for the business is the sense of community that the farm holds.
“There are customers that have known me since I was a baby, who have been coming to the orchard for decades. It really does have that welcoming, small-town feel that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Despite the aforementioned “small-town” aspect, agritourism in the Valley is certainly starting to get more attention across the province. Blair Orchards welcomes that, feeling that the area has a lot to offer.
“It kind of feels like we’re in an almost undiscovered region. But whenever someone that isn’t from here does come here, they love it, and a lot of the time they come back. There’s just so much to do, and we really try to make everybody feel like a part of the family.”