The farm stand at Alyson’s Orchard.Photo Credit : Dave Turner/ProPictures
Just outside the classic New England village of Walpole, New Hampshire, on a hillside overlooking the Connecticut River Valley, sits a scenic 364-acre property known near and far as Alyson’s Orchard. And it has been a focal point of Susan Jasse’s life since she and her husband, Bob, bought this land in the 1980s.
“My hope is that someone who already knows this property, who sees its value to the town and as a special destination, will want to pick up what we’ve done and continue it,” says Susan as she shows me around this place that she is both eager and reluctant to sell.
Bob Jasse was a business executive when he first spied this former cow farm—from the air, in fact, while flying home to Boston from a ski vacation. As Susan and I drive past row after row of heirloom apple trees, it takes some effort to imagine the open fields that Bob had first seen.
In a 1995 interview with The Boston Globe, Bob explained his attraction to the land as a location for a country escape and an apple orchard. “It was virgin ground. It never had apples,” he said. And since the land was a drumlin—a gentle hill formed by the movement of glaciers—its slopes improved drainage and created an airflow that made spring frosts less damaging to crops.
Today the property has 50 acres devoted to fruit production: 46 varieties of apples as well as peaches, pears, plums, grapes, and berries. “Bob’s first crop was all McIntosh,” Susan says with a laugh as we roll past signs for one heirloom variety after another. “We really had no idea what we were doing. It took a while, but luckily we got some good advice.”
In the early days, Susan explains, they saw the property mainly as a weekend retreat. They even had an airstrip built so they could fly up from Boston. (Although seldom used these days, that 1,300-foot runway is still legal and maintained.) But before long the Jasses made Walpole their home—first living where the orchard’s events center is now and later building a house nearby. Bob passed away in 2008, and the house they shared is not included in the sale, as Susan will continue living there.
The orchard was named Alyson’s for the youngest of Bob’s seven children (from his first marriage), who died as an infant. As Susan and I tour the hillside, the names of buildings, swimming holes, and vistas transform the landscape into a family album of sorts. Ilze’s Point of View. Rachel’s Pond. Eliza’s Playground. Robert’s Hall. Every bit of the property, it seems, has a story to tell.
In autumn Alyson’s bustles with families who come to pick their own apples, but fruit is just one part of the operations here. About 20 years ago, in an effort to make the property more financially sustainable, Susan suggested adding an events venue where she could put her skills as a chef to use. Though it was slow going at first, today Alyson’s is one of the region’s most sought-after destinations for weddings, hosting nearly 50 a year. Past clients have included the daughter of Walpole’s most famous resident, filmmaker Ken Burns.
Weddings are currently booked through 2021, and honoring those commitments is a condition of the sale. Susan is confident that once a new owner gets a taste of the events side of the business, they’ll want to keep it going. “We see people at their best, at such a joyous time. And those memories become associated with this place. We get many visitors who return for a walk down memory lane.”
The two houses included with the property currently provide lodging for wedding parties and other overnight guests. The 1860 Caleb Foster Farmhouse has two wings, each with a full kitchen, dining and living areas, and three to four bedrooms and suites. Next door is the rustic Rochambeau Lodge, a converted barn with eight bedrooms and amenities including a sauna and a wood stove. Either the lodge or part or all of the farmhouse could be easily converted into a private residence; there’s also ample space to build a new home on the property.
That said, this is a House for Sale story that isn’t so much about houses. No matter how nice these dwellings are, they could never wrest attention away from the unquestioned star of the show at Alyson’s: the beautiful rural New Hampshire landscape.
“It means a lot to me that we are part of this town—I love Walpole,” Susan says, as we pass tracks in the snow left by a neighbor walking a dog. “I’m excited to pass the orchard on to someone who can hopefully build on this great foundation, and I’m even more excited that I’ll still be nearby and don’t have to say good-bye.”
Alyson’s Orchard is being listed for $3.2 million. For more information, contact Penelope Seaver at Coldwell Banker, 603-608-6258, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yankeelikes to mosey around and see, out of editorial curiosity, what you can turn up when you go house hunting. We have no stake in the sale whatsoever and would decline it if offered.