Follow the Fruit Loop Trail for hours of family fun

Follow the Fruit Loop Trail for hours of family fun
While Kellogg’s Froot Loops’ mascot, Toucan Sam, encouraged cereal eaters to follow their noses, the Nelson County Department of Economic Development and Tourism is encouraging people to follow a trail of farmers growing more than a dozen varieties of fruit.

The Blue Ridge Fruit Loop Trail  includes 11 orchards in Nelson and Amherst counties that offer a variety of apples, blueberries and blackberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, wine, mead and more. Visitors also may find plum-like damson fruits, pluots—a cross between apricots and plums—and Asian pears. 

“It only took 13 years to get this started,” said Maureen Kelley, Nelson director of economic development. She noted that the amount of farmland in production in Nelson County has actually increased over the past 10 years, even when other localities were losing farm acreage. “We’re always trying to figure out how to support our agri-artisans.”

Fruit added to growing list of Va. trails

Tommy Bruguiere and his brother, John, co-own Dickie Brothers Orchard. They grow 100 acres of apples, peaches, plums and damsons that they sell wholesale and in their retail store. Enticing people to the area as part of a specialty trail is helping to increase the number of visitors who come to pick their own fruit.

“The message of the trail is that there is fruit from the end of May all the way into November, not just in October,” Kelley said. All of the farms are within a 50-mile radius. 

Not too far from Dickie Brothers is Drumheller’s Orchard, which dates to 1937, when E.O. and Eva Drumheller bought the 446-acre abandoned orchard and replanted peaches and apples. Today, Doris Drumheller owns the orchard with her son, Kevin, who runs the operation with his daughter, Morgan Drumheller-Johnston. When Kelley contacted them about joining the fruit loop trail, “we were up for it,” Drumheller-Johnston said. “The breweries and wineries have trails, so why not fruit growers?”

Orchards work together

Drumheller-Johnston said the fruit loop trail has been a good way for the county’s orchards to collaborate. “If someone’s looking for damsons and we don’t have them, we’ll tell them which (fruit loop) farm does. It’s beneficial for everybody to work together.”

Kimberly Pugh, co-owner of Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, said she used to worry about competition from other local wineries but has found that more tourists come to the area because there are so many options.

Hill Top was started as a pick-your-own berry farm by Pugh’s parents, and she and her husband, Gregory, started the winery in 1998. They grow 7 acres of blackberries and 4 acres of blueberries that they use in their fruit wines.

“There are adults who come to taste wine who say their parents used to come here to pick the berries. We stay busy,” she said, thanks in part to the fruit loop trail.

The farmers on the trail just want people to visit the area and enjoy all that it has to offer, Bruguiere said. “Make a day of it, or even a weekend. We have plenty of B&Bs that will make your adventure to Nelson County and the fruit loop all the more worthwhile.”

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