McDougal Orchards is a diversified, seventh generation family farm in Southern Maine. We specialize in growing high quality apples for pick-your-own customers, our farm stand, the Sanford Farmers’ Market, and local wholesalers. You can find us a mile from downtown Sanford and close to the beaches and lakes of York County. Come explore the historic farmland and orchards, or stop in quickly for some ready-picked fruit in the barn. Capt. Jack is usually making fresh cider donuts out in the Donut Shack, too! Come visit our farm animals, spend time in our picnic area, build a woodland house in our fairy village, or get lost in our corn maze. We also offer miles of trails throughout the property for our visitors to enjoy an energetic hike or a leisurely stroll.
Continue to provide our customers with quality fruit and produce grown on the farm. We also want to provide our customers with a healthy environment just a few miles from downtown Sanford; a place to relax and soak in the beauty by yourself or with your family and/or friends.
We meet families every year who come up to pick apples. The parents remember coming here when they were just kids, and now they want their children to enjoy the same experience. At times we have three generations of a family here. As one of our customers once said, “The orchard is in the business of making memories.”
On May 25th 2005, Robert and Pat McDougal, the owners of Hanson Farm, Inc., realized their dream to preserve the family's orchards, hayfields, pastures, and woodlands, forever. Known as McDougal Orchards to farm customers, apple aficionados and (at one time) cross-country skiers alike, the 284-acre farm located on Hanson Ridge Road is the most recent farm protected through the Land for Maine's Future Program and USDA Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.
"For 225 years each generation of the Hanson/McDougal family has done its part in keeping this farm going," said Bob McDougal. "Today, thanks to the efforts of our daughter Ellen, our son, and many public agency partners, we're granting an agricultural conservation easement on our farm. We are doing this to slow sprawl and protect farmland to make good land available for future farmers in York County."Read More
McDougal Orchards is located on a portion of a 450 acre tract purchased at tax auction for fifty-two pounds ten shillings by Joshua Hanson in 1779. The land has been farmed in various ways by the same family ever since.
Today, McDougal Orchards operation includes 3 generations of Hanson/McDougal family descendants. Ellen (McDougal) and Jack McAdam presently own the business. You will still see Ellen’s mother, Pat, around the orchard salesroom almost daily. Robert (Bob, Mac, Dad, Grampa) passed away on December 9th 2012. He had just turned 88 a few days before. Robert and Pat celebrated 60 years of marriage in November of 2012. He is missed by all.Read More
Captain Jack was a USCG licensed Captain. He sailed for 32 years with NOAA on Fisheries Research Vessels mainly out of Woods Hole. The last ten years as Captain of the NOAA Ship Delaware II and NOAA Ship Albatross IV. In 2005 the Admiral offered him a position on the beach. There was no thinking about his answer "YES"! The first Belshaw Donut Robot was purchased in 2005. Ellen always thought that apple cider donuts would go well here. While trying to come up with a name for the business one of our son's friends said “why not call it Capt Jack’s Donut Shack”. The name stuck.Read More
Growing apples takes all year. If you look closely, you can even see the promise of next years’ apple at the tip of each branch. It is a wrinkly little bud that will become the apple which you might eat a year from now, so be careful when you are picking! If you pull off those buds you are removing next years’ fruit.Read More
Thanking the McDougals, Maine Farmland Trust's President Frank Miles said, "Maine Farmland Trust is pleased to accept the easement on this wonderfully diverse farm. We are grateful for the leadership and technical expertise contributed by the Maine Department of Agriculture and we are pleased that the federal farmland protection program is able match all state efforts dollar-for-dollar."
"Partnership is key to addressing preservation of farmland in Maine ," stated Joyce Swartzwendruber, State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Maine . "In cooperation with land trusts and local and state government agencies we are making a difference for the future of agriculture in Maine . The USDA congratulates the McDougals' and the Town of Sanford in their joint endeavor."
In 2002, the Town of Sanford made history by becoming the first town in Maine to approve the donation of an easement on the “Town Farm” (55 ares) as match for a Land for Maine's Future farmland project. Today, when accepting the easement, Dr. Bud Johnson, President of Mousam Way Land Trust added, "Mousam Way Land Trust is proud to partner with the Town of Sanford to preserve land that the McDougals have farmed for the past 15 years. This property is the keystone parcel in this effort because it connects all parcels owned by Hanson Farm, Inc." We have leased the 55 acres from the town and currently grow raspberries, peaches, nectarines, plums and occasionally corn.
Maine Department of Agriculture's Farmland Protection Specialist, Stephanie Gilbert, thanked the family for their patience and perseverance, and delivered a message from Commissioner, Robert Spear. "Many other farm families are seeking the opportunity to sell development rights and preserve their farmland as a legacy for Maine 's future. Without the funds to support new projects and with a growing list of needs statewide, this coming year will be a period of missed opportunities to preserve some of our most productive farms and farmlands. Bills presently before the Maine Legislature call for renewed funding of Land for Maine's Future and are supported by members from all parties."
"The need to replenish the Land for Maine's Future Program is driven by sweeping changes in Maine 's landscape," said Land for Maine's Future director, Tim Glidden. "Real estate prices, driven by private market demand, are increasing at double-digit rates throughout southern and coastal Maine . Indeed, our experience is that attractive properties throughout the State are drawing prices that were unheard of when the program was founded."
In an independent Land for Maine's Future evaluation and progress report; The Land for Maine's Future Program: Increasing the Return on a Sound Public Investment , published in 2004, the authors conclude "we find that there continues to be urgent need for a state-funded land conservation effort in Maine, for which there is broad public support, that Land for Maine's Future both deserves and needs to continue its efforts for the foreseeable future, and that new funding is needed at this time, to continue this most important effort."
The Land for Maine's Future Program was created in 1987 in response to concerns over the loss of critical natural area, wildlife habitat, and farmland along with traditional access to undeveloped lands for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. To date, the Land for Maine 's Future Program has protected over 215,000 acres of Maine's best recreational and natural areas along with 3,977 acres of farmland. The program also seeks to protect farmlands through the purchase of development rights and public access to water for fishing boating and commercial marine activities. Working with other state agencies and numerous local governments and charitable nonprofit groups, the Land for Maine 's Future Board adheres to a "willing seller only" policy.
So when you see Pat, Ellen or Jack say "Thank You So Much".
The above information was taken from the Maine State Planning Office Press Release.
Up until 1930, there were 4 or 5 acres of orchard scattered throughout the farm, producing Russets, Pippins, Peewaukees, August Sweets, and other old varieties. From 1930-1933, Alva McDougal, who married Mary Hanson, planted 1600 McIntosh trees on 17 acres in what is now the Main Orchard. It was said that 400 trees per child would support a family (he had 4 children at the time). Some of these trees continue to bear fruit to this day.
Robert H. McDougal, one of Alva’s sons, was responsible for the initial modernization of the operation. Dwarf trees now replace most of the big, old standard trees and a cold storage has replaced the barn’s former cow tie-up. Most importantly, he was the first in the area to start a pick-your-own operation in 1972, after a hailstorm destroyed any hope of a wholesale crop.
Many years ago, what is now the “Donut Shack” was called the bunkhouse. Nova Scotians came down to pick apples when the orchard was strictly a wholesale operation. They cooked their meals and lived in the bunkhouse while working here. Back in the early 90's a few transient apple pickers also used the bunkhouse while working here. In 1995 the inside was gutted and transformed into a warming hut for the cross country ski business. All the pine v-match came from trees harvested on the property.After that, ¬the former “bunkhouse” was known as the Warming Hut for the many years that we had a cross country skiing business here at the farm. In _____, after two years of little to no snow, the ski business came to an end, but the ski trails are still great for hiking!
Robert’s daughter Ellen met Jack McAdam in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Jack was the Second Officer on the NOAA Ship Delaware II and Ellen was a Lieutenant in the NOAA Corps and assistant Port Captain. Yes, a “Shipboard Romance”. They were married in 1984 at the Springvale First Baptist Church with a reception at the old “Potting Shed” and resided in Falmouth, MA.
Ellen eventually got out of the NOAA Corps and in 1989 they decided to move to the Farm. Jack continued to sail out of Woods Hole for NOAA working his way up to becoming Captain. Ellen had always wanted to be back on the farm and started learning the apple business with her Dad. Jack and Ellen bought the Farm House from her folks who built a new home just down the road.
Starting in 2010 Ellen and Jack took over the business.
The first two years Jack made donuts on the back porch attached to the former bunkhouse/warming hut (see Farm History). Sales increased the second year and the decision was made to move inside. Some rearranging was done to give the donut operation more room and an exhaust hood was added.
Yearly sales increased again and in 2008 a new Belshaw Donut Robot was purchased. This unit would double the output of the old one. With a new machine came problems and the old MK-1 was used as the primary machine for most of the season.
With help from the local Belshaw distributor the bugs were worked out and the machine is performing very well. Capt Jack retired from NOAA in July 2009 after 36 years of federal service and now owns McDougal Orchards with his wife Ellen.
The more pressure you use to pick the apple off the tree the more likely you will bruise it. Hold the apple in the palm of your hand and lightly grasp the apple. Roll the apple up towards the sky until the stem breaks from the tree. Place it into your bag carefully.
Handled and stored properly apples can have a storage life of 90 days or more. Store your apples in the refrigerator, that way they'll last up to 10 times longer than if left at room temperature. Remember, apples absorb odors easily, so keep them away from smelly foods!
Growing an apple tree is much more complicated than planting a seed in the ground. Since apples do not grow true to their seeds, young trees that have been grown in a nursery from cuttings are transplanted to the orchard site. These trees have a desired apple variety grafted (attached by tissue splicing) on to a root stock selected for characteristics of size and vigor. Most apple trees in our orchard are on dwarf stock (these are the smaller trees that you’ll see around the orchard), allowing for more efficient use of valuable land and labor. You can still find some old stock in the main orchard. We refer to it as our “nostalgia block”. It takes about 3 to 4 years after planting for any apples to be produced from a newly planted tree. Apple trees can live for over 100 years.
A number of agricultural meetings and conferences take place. We try to attend most of them, we always learn something!
In early February the crew starts the job of pruning all of our apple trees. Branches are cut off to allow for better sunlight to reach the fruit. Our crew has to look at a tree that has no leaves and try to imagine it fully leafed out and loaded with apples in order to know where to make the best cuts.
Very cold temperatures (below zero F) can damage the roots if we have no snow cover. Snow is an insulator and keeps the ground at just below 32 degrees. The winter of 2003/04 we had a cold snap, -20 for a week with no snow, and we lost around 1,000 trees during the spring and summer. In 2005 there were still signs of trees that were affected by that one cold snap.
The cuttings from the trees are put in the middle of the rows. When the ground is somewhat dried, we run over them with a mower to “recycle” them back into the soil. Extra chips are spread under newly planted trees as a mulch to keep weed growth down and put nitrogen and carbon back into the soil.
The stone fruit trees are pruned in the spring.
In mid-May the apple trees come into full bloom and are covered in apple blossoms. It is quite a beautiful site to see. In order for the apple blossoms to become apples, they must be cross pollinated (the pollen from the blossom of one variety must travel to the blossom of another variety before fertilization can occur). If we do not have our own beehives, we rent about 10 to help the wild pollinators in this process of cross pollination. Cold and rainy spring weather can affect the bees as they tend to hang out in the hives until it warms up and stops raining. This can affect the apple crop if it rains a lot during bloom. Frost is also a potential enemy during bloom and could destroy the entire crop.
After pollination occurs and seeds begin to develop, the petals from the blossoms fall off, the eating part of the apple starts to grow. There are generally too many apples on the tree so we thin many of them off, either chemically or by hand.. This process lets the tree put more energy into fewer apples, and we end up with larger apples rather than a lot of smaller ones.
We practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the orchard, monitoring and treating for pests and diseases that will threaten the crop. For instance, for apple maggot, we placeapple-red spheres coated with a sticky substance around the perimeter of the orchard blocks. Once a week we count the apple maggot flies stuck on the red spheres. When the number of flies reaches a certain threshold (so many bugs per sphere,) the trees are sprayed to keep these pests from laying eggs in the ripening apples. This particular pest makes the apples unmarketable. Chemicals are expensive andthey take labor to apply. The less spraying we do the better for everyone. We spray at night or in the early morning to protect our pollinators as much as possible. (see About Us for more on our spray policy)
Some summer pruning is done to remove fully developed leaves and get maximum sunlight to the apples. Root suckers (shoots at the base of the tree) are cut so the tree puts more energy into the apples. Summer carries the risk of hail during thunderstorms. Hail will dimple, cut and/or bruise the apples. We hold our breath every time a thunderstorm passes!
Mid to Late August we open up for early apples and continue picking different varieties of apples until late October. We sell wholesale apples to the Sanford and Wells Hannaford supermarkets, when we have enough to spare. We supply the stores with apples until just before Thanksgiving, or until we run out of apples, whichever comes first.
Once we close, all the orchards are mowed, the raspberry patch is mowed off, the corn maze is mowed and chopped up, all the growing fields are harrowed and planted with a cover crop, any cover plastic and drip tape are removed and discarded.
Our equipment is winterized and stored in one of the barns. Then it’s time to catch up on paperwork and before you know it Thanksgiving is coming up! We find ourselves getting ready for the holidays and enjoying a little rest and relaxation. We finally have a chance to look back on the previous year and start planning for the one to come!