HenleyFest is Sarah Henley’s favorite time to see people come out to enjoy the family farm and orchard. “We’re still mowing and baling hay in October,” she says, “so the tractors are still hooked up to their rakes and balers and there is a lot going on. Kids are especially fascinated; they get to see a day in the life of the farm and help make fresh cider the old-fashioned way. They can play outside, interact with farm animals at the petting zoo, pick apples, or sit on the patio with their glass of fresh cider. For their parents, there is hard cider or peach wine and live music.” A food truck is often on hand, and local bakeries supply baked goods made with Henley’s Orchard apples.
Four generations have kept Henley’s Orchard growing since 1932, when Joseph T. Henley, Sr., purchased five acres for apple production. Now, with 45 acres in apples, another property up the road for peaches, a livestock operation (cows, pigs and chickens) and a boarding facility for horses, the family continues to diversify. In 2010 they began to host a retail store called The Shed for fruit sales and pick-your-own activities, and in 2019 they added hard cider production to the mix.
“It’s a lot and we do a lot, but we think of our farm as Charlottesville’s backyard,” says Sarah Henley, whose husband, Tim, took over the farming operation from his father, Joseph Henley, Jr., in 2010. The Henleys had already protected 45 acres of their land with an easement donated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in 2002, and Sarah was convinced that connecting the farm with the public was also essential to its future. “I said, if we’re going to do this, we need to make it a destination, not just a working facility,” she recalls.
The family business includes Sarah and Tim’s three adult children—Jacquelyn, Brook and Steele (a biologist, accountant and engineer, respectively)—who take care of the orchard, cidery, livestock and hay operations. “I don’t think Tim and I could have made it [without them] after the first 5-6 years,” Sarah says. “It was obvious we needed their input and skills.”
As for many Virginia families, 2020 brought challenges. “We started a
grass-fed beef operation and then the processing facilities closed down. We finally got our classification as a cidery and we wondered if anyone would come,” Sarah notes. “But we expanded our terrace so people would have more space, and they were grateful for the possibility to spend time outdoors.”
HenleyFest takes place every weekend in October, now fully stocked with apples, grass-fed beef, pork, free-range eggs and ciders. The farm is open all season for apple picking. Check out their Facebook page or visit https://www.henleysorchard.com/ for updates and hours of operation.