Our History

The Beginning

Our family owned orchard began in 1911 when George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer, met at the farmers market and decided it would be fruitful to join forces and enter the emerging apple business. They found that the hillside area along Route 20 provided the perfect conditions for growing apples and began planting that very year.

New Wholesale Business

During the 1920s and 30s Beak & Skiff began selling apples to grocery stores such as Victory, A&P and other small local grocers.

Hard Times - Dry Year

The 1930s brought some of the toughest years for American agriculture as drought swept across the nation. In 1937, the hardships struck close to home when it became so dry that all the trees in the orchard lost their leaves.

Hard Times - The Big Freeze

The orchard once again fell on hard times in 1945 when a late spring freeze destroyed an entire crop of apples.

Fighting the Frost - Smoke

In 1949 we started to use heat to fight off frost by lighting smudge pots on cold spring mornings. Throughout the years we have continually improved our methods so that we have never lost an entire crop of apples again.

Irrigation & Growth

We began using irrigation methods to keep the trees watered. Our increased production throughout the decade led to a need for larger apple boxes to store our harvest.

Fighting the Frost - Wind

One of the challenges of growing apples in the valley is the tendency for cold air to settle. So in order to further protect the delicate apple blossoms that become our apples we became the first orchard in the Northeast to use wind machines to move cold air out of our valley so it couldn't damage our blossoms. Over the years this innovative method has saved thousands of apples from being destroyed before they had a chance to grow.

Increasing Storage

In the early 60s we added Controlled Atmosphere rooms so that apples could be stored longer.

Opening to the Public

In 1975 Beak & Skiff diversified from the strictly wholesale business of past years by opening our pick your own orchard on what has become known as Apple Hill. A few years later we converted an old dairy barn into the Apple Hill Country Store and bake shop. This has been one of our most successful ventures and has provided families in Central NY with a place to create wonderful family memories year after year.

Apple Cider Innovation

We first began making our apple cider the same year we opened our Apple Hill country store. As it gained in popularity and demand from our wholesale accounts increased we found the need to develop a pasteurization process that extend the shelf life but did not alter the delicious flavor. Our cider mill was the first to "flash pasteurize" fresh cider and distribute it through the wholesale channel. Today our cider can be found at many of your favorite grocery stores and markets.

New Ventures - Hard Cider

In 2001 we branched out again by creating our line of Hard Ciders. Made from our own sweet cider these products have continued to grow in popularity each year.

Introducing 1911 Spirits

The success of our Hard Cider line led us to further jump into the spirits business with the launch of our small batch premium vodka and gin. Our 1911 Spirits brand was the first in Onondaga county to hold a distillery license and the first to produce gin.

Now in our fifth generation we continue to make advancements and improvement in and around the orchard. In 2013 we planted almost 15,000 new trees and renovated our apple hill campus to provide our customers an even better apple picking experience. The Apple Hill Campus is also became home to our 1911 Tasting Room and Cafe.