Beak & Skiff Apple Farm opened in 1911 by George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer. The farmers, eager to start a partnership, found a hillside area along Route 20 in Lafayette, New York that provided the right conditions for apple farming.
The 1920s were fruitful years for Beak and Skiff’s business, but in 1937, amidst a nationwide drought, the New Yorker’s apple trees became so dry that the entire orchard lost its leaves. Business picked up again until another set back in 1945, a spring freeze, caused the loss of the entire crop.
Beak and Skiff learned from these setbacks. To fight off frost, they began lighting “smudge pots” on cold spring mornings. Their methods continuously improved as they adapted to ever-changing conditions. The farmers have never lost an entire crop since.
In 1975, the farmers diversified their offerings to now include consumer goods and services. In addition to the opening of Apple Hill, a pick-your-own orchard, a country store opened, selling apple cider and apple-infused baked goods. The cider mill was the first to “flash pasteurize” fresh cider and distribute through a wholesale channel.
Today, the fifth generation-owned Beak & Skiff orchard is one of the largest apple operations in New York. It has become a community staple and an annual tradition for many families in the area for apple picking in the fall, along with hosting concerts and other activities throughout the year.