McDougal Orchards is a diversified seventh generation family farm in Southern Maine specializing in the production of high quality apples for sale to pick-your-own and farm stand customers. We invite families of all ages to step back in time, slow down, relax and enjoy the farm’s healthy, high-quality agricultural products and low-impact recreational opportunities. Visitors will take home fresh, carefully grown produce, tired, happy kids, and an increased knowledge of, and appreciation for, this small pocket of agriculture in Springvale, Maine.
Customers pass through the dooryard of the historic farmhouse on their way to pick apples in the orchards behind the house, or stop to buy ready-picked fruit in the barn salesroom. We also offer fresh apple cider donuts, picnic areas, a fairy village, corn maze, wagon rides (weekends only) and more! Plus, there’s always a family member about to fill you in on the history of the place or how best to prune that old tree in your backyard. We hope to see you soon! We also offer miles of trails throughout the property for our visitors to enjoy an energetic hike or a leisurely stroll.
We will continue to provide our customers with quality fruit and produce grown on the farm, and offer them healthy recreational opportunities just a few miles from downtown Sanford; a place to relax and soak in the beauty of the Maine outdoors.
Becoming a Forever Farm
On May 25th 2005, Robert and Pat McDougal, the (previous) 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 346-acre farm located on Hanson Ridge Road is protected through the Land for Maine’s Future Program and USDA Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program with Maine Farmland Trust and Mousam Way Land Trust.
As quoted by Bob McDougal at the easement closing in 2002, “For 225 years each generation of the Hanson/McDougal family has done its part in keeping this farm going.” “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.”
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.The program also seeks to protect farmlands through the purchase of development rights.
Our story begins more than 200 years ago when Joshua Hanson purchased 450 acres of land at a tax auction for fifty-two pounds ten shillings in 1779. The land has been farmed in various ways by the same family ever since.
A few generations later, Mary Hanson, a great-great-grand-niece of Joshua (1st generation), was a nurse during World War I, stationed at a fort in New Mexico. She met a soldier who had just returned from France. They fell in love and got married. That soldier’s name was Alva McDougal. Around 1924 they decided to visit Mary’s parents on the family farm back in Springvale, Maine. Her father, Judge George Hanson, operated a successful dairy business and had planted a Baldwin orchard.
He shipped barrels of his apples to England. While they were visiting, Mary’s father had a heart attack and died, it is said, while mucking out the barn. So Mary and Alva (5th generation) decided to stay and take over the farm operations.
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 planted 1600 McIntosh trees on 17 acres in what is now known as the Main Orchard. It was said in those days that 400 trees per child would support a family (he had 4 children at the time). There are 30 of these original trees left in our Main orchard that still produce fruit.
In the 1950’s, one of Alva’s sons, Robert H. McDougal (6th generation), was responsible for the initial modernization of the operation. At one time he was tending 75 acres of apple trees in various spots around Sanford. His market at that time was nearly 100% wholesale, although he did have a small salesroom at the front of the barn for retail.
Most of the big, old and slower-growing standard trees were replaced with smaller, dwarf varieties that produced more quickly, and a cold storage replaced the barn’s former cow tie-up. Most importantly, Robert was the first in the area to start a pick-your-own operation in 1974, after a hailstorm destroyed any hope of a wholesale crop. Many people thought he was crazy for letting the public come to the orchard and pick their own apples, but it was a success! Wholesale apples were still the main focus but pick-your-own (PYO) became an annual event.
Robert’s daughter, Ellen (7th generation) was a Lieutenant in the NOAA Corps and assistant Port Captain. She met Jack McAdam in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Yes, it was a “Shipboard Romance” and they were married in 1984. A few years later they decided to move to the farm.
Ellen had always wanted to be back on the family farm and started learning the apple business alongside her Dad. Her brother Evan was also involved in the orchard business around that time and he was a driving force behind transitioning to agrotourism (wagon rides, a corn maze, cross country skiing), incorporating shoulder-season crops like cucumbers and tomatoes grown in a hoop house and diversifying our operation by planting crops like fall raspberries, pumpkins, winter squashes and more.
In the mid 90’s Ellen was able to show her dad that the business was losing money on wholesale apples. We started taking out trees and selling less and less wholesale through distributors. Eventually wholesale stopped and today we focus entirely on retail and pick-your-own.
In 2009 Captain Jack retired from NOAA after 36 years and, in January 2010, he and Ellen became sole owners of McDougal Orchards LLC.
Today, Hanson Farm Corporation, the legal entity which owns the property, holds 330 acres. We have about 13 acres planted with apple trees, just under 4,000 trees in 2 orchards. There are over 40 different varieties planted. We also have sweet and sour cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears and plums.
In 2017 we started holding family meetings with Matthew and Polly (our children) to talk about transitioning the farm to them. They will be the 8th generation. Polly has been working here since 2018. Matthew started full time here in July 2021. The transition is starting.
Captain Jack’s Donut Shack
Captain Jack was a USCG licensed Captain. He sailed for 32 years with NOAA on Fisheries Research Vessels mainly out of Woods Hole. He spent the last ten of those 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”!
Ellen always thought that apple cider donuts would do well at the orchard, and with his new schedule allowing him to be home on weekends, they purchased a Belshaw Donut Robot in 2005.
For the first two years Jack and his daughter, Polly made donuts on a deck outside the former X-Country ski warming shack. Sales increased the second year and the decision was made to move inside. Some rearranging was done in the shack to give the donut operation more room and an exhaust hood was added. The popularity of Captain Jack’s cider donuts has grown ever since!
In 2017 we leased the Donut Shack to the Hanselmann family. They took over the operations of the business, allowing Jack to be out in the orchards on busy weekends.
The Hanselmann’s have made amazing improvements and came up with some delicious new concoctions, including cider donut whoopie pies (sometimes with ice cream), refillable buckets of donuts, cider slushies and more! We can’t wait to see what they’ll think of next!
In 2015 we started using biodiesel in our two John Deere tractors and Kubota RTV. Maine Standard Biofuels is our supplier and we love that they come and collect the used shortening from the donut shack to turn into biodiesel. Donut fuel!
In 2016 we received a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant to help with the cost of the installation of a 20.14KW solar photovoltaic array on the barn roof to offset our electricity needs.
In 2019, trying to get away from using so much plastic, we started selling sturdy canvas bags with our logo on them. We sold them at cost and customers who opt to use them, or bring their own bags or other containers, get a discount on their purchase of pick-your-own apples.
We currently rotate our corn maze and squash/pumpkin plantings among four fields on the farm. When not being cropped (or played in!), all fields are planted to cover crops to increase soil health. New apple tree plantings are mulched with hardwood chips to discourage rodents, conserve moisture, increase soil bioactivity, and help with weed control. We follow integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to limit pesticide use and efficiently control orchard pests and diseases.
We will continue to follow practices that support the success of this farm now and for future generations.