Guided Tour: Apple Picking at Le Verger Labonte
Le Verger Labonté
Address: 2291 Perrot Blvd., Notre Dame de l'Île Perrot (View map)
Cost: Apple picking $12/bucket; Corn maze: under age 5, free; 5 to 15 years old, $7;16 and up, $9.
Schedule: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, Aug. 22 to Nov. 1, 2009. After mid-September, open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
Yes, it's sad that summer is coming to an end. But, one of the highlights of this time of year is going apple picking. This year, we tried Le Verger Labonté, an orchard we've never been to before, and were rewarded with a beautiful day, a gazillion deliciously crisp apples, the opportunity to explore a corn maze, visit the mini-farm and playground.
What makes Verger Labonté the ultimate feel-good destination is that this is a farm with a humanitarian vision. For the past few years, the farm has created mazes in its corn fields, donating a portion of entrance fees to development projects. Last year, for example, $6,500 was raised for two organizations helping children in Peru. The mazes are filled with surprise clues linked to the humanitarian project. This year's maze educates participants about Vietnam, and the money raised will go to projects in both Vietnam and Africa.
But, back to the corn maze in a minute. What's that mouthwatering smell?
It's really too bad there's no way to photograph the heavenly aroma that wafts out of Le Verger Labonté's farmhouse/store, where their famous apple muffins are being baked (and bought and devoured). Resistance is futile. Actually, Verger Labonté sweeps you off your feet the minute you drive in, with adorable red and white barn houses and furry friends: miniature horses, donkeys, pigs, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters. Kids will be happy to pet the animals and explore the play area before heading to the orchard or corn maze.
Let the apple picking begin!
For apple picking, you pay $12 and get a bucket to fill with apples. For those with babies or toddlers, it's handy to have a baby carrier or backpack so that your hands are free for apple picking. The orchard area is not far from the farm entrance, so kids age 2.5 and up should be fine on their own two feet. You can also hop on a tractor ride around the grounds. Even kids who aren't particularly enthused about eating fruit (not that I know any such children), seem to love the simple mission of filling the bucket with apples. It's fun for them to climb up on ladders, pick and pass their finds down down to mom and dad.
The corn maze
Le Verger Labonté has conveniently divided its corn maze area in three different parts. There's one for young children, which takes about 10 minutes and a medium-size one that takes 20 to 30 minutes. The big one can take over an hour to complete and find the surprise at the end. We made it through the small and medium-size mazes with our 2- and 5-year-old. Again, those with babies or young toddlers will find it handy to have a baby carrier with them; this family-friendly orchard even has one it can lend.
Tip: Extend your visit by bringing a picnic lunch. Although the apples and apple muffins are delicious, you may want to some unsweetened food! There are picnic tables for grownups and kids, some are under a tent, some not.
- To find an apple orchard in your region, check out the Quebec Apple Producers' Federation website. The site allows you to look for farms by region, and for farms that have family friendly features like mini farms and picnic areas.
- For the past three years, we have visited Les Vergers Pierre Tremblay, a great apple orchard near Mont St. Gabriel. It's another family friendly destination, with mini farm, play area and rides on miniature horses. There is also an on-site restaurant with lunch food, apple pie, apple muffins and apple cookies.
- If you don't have a car, the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport offers half-day train trips to an apple orchard through the beginning of October. Look at the September 2009 events calendar, under the date of Sept. 5, for details.