Next generation takes on Sunrise Orchards

CORNWALL, VT — A popular apple orchard in the Middlebury area has been protected for farming and for the community to enjoy, the Vermont Land Trust announced today. Barney Jr. and Dee Hodges conserved 171 acres of Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall and transferred the business to their son Barney III and his wife Christina (Chris) Hodges.

Community members contributed generously to a successful fundraising effort to protect the orchard. Further support came from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and from the Hodges family who sold the development rights below market value.

“The Hodges have grown and expanded Sunrise Orchards in an impressive way, investing in infrastructure and adding agritourism opportunities, including a farmstand,” said VLT’s Al Karnatz. “It’s a great orchard for locals and visitors, and the community really stepped up to help conserve it. We’re excited that it will continue to be a fixture in the Middlebury area in the future.”

Established in 1974, the orchard began on 88 acres of a former dairy farm. Today, Sunrise harvests over 100,000 bushels a year, sells their apples wholesale, and has their own packing facility and housing for seasonal workers.

The orchard is well known in the Middlebury area and is a destination for pick-your-own apples. Their apples can also be found year-round at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op. In 2021, Sunrise added a farmstand with apples, cider, treats, and coffee, and hosted a harvest festival in October.

“Conserving the orchard has been our family’s wish for decades,” said Barney III Hodges. “We’re really excited to conserve the orchard. Not just for our generation but for generations to come. And we’re very grateful for the local support that helped make this happen.”

The conserved acreage includes the main orchard, as well as 10 acres of wetlands and ecologically sensitive zones that have special protections. In addition to natural resources, the conservation easement includes farm affordability protections to ensure the land stays available for farming into the future.