Experiencing the most fall has to offer in Ashtabula County can be found at Brant’s Apple Orchard on Dibble Road in Ashtabula Ohio. My most recent visit was during Brant’s Annual Donut Extravaganza kickoff on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Delighting in Donut Day
As my friend and I pulled into Brant’s Apple Orchard, the place was already buzzing with activity. Walking down the drive to the main market entrance, the apple trees were sporting their full fall colors, and the beautiful weather was creating such a relaxing atmosphere.
Entering the main building, the aroma of freshly picked apples and apple cider greeted my nose, and as I made my way further inside, the mouth-watering smell of the bakery finally hit me. I could almost taste the donuts and apple cider already.
As we waited in line to place our order, the number of products available for purchase along the way to the bakery was overwhelming. Everything from syrups to jams and salsa to coffee lined the walls with printed information and prices.
Six different types of apples were available that day — Golden Delicious, Winesap, Melrose, Idared, Firmgold, and Rome. I also laid my hands on the legendary pulled pork, mac-and-cheese sandwich made with Brant’s own apple barbecue sauce.
Fun Fact: Owner Brian Diehl says (during our interview), “The pulled pork mac and cheese sandwich has received over one million views on Facebook. On its own, this sandwich has pulled in people from out of state.”
Here is a list of prices for some of the items I purchased:
- Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese- $6.95
- Dozen Apple Cider Donuts- $7.50
- Gallon of Apple Cider- $7.00
- Dozen Specialty Donuts- $11.00
- Cup of Potato Bacon Soup- $4.95
This “Donut Extravaganza” theme continues throughout most of November.
A Walk Through Brant’s Apple Orchard
My friend and I left with our arms full and enjoyed a cup of potato bacon soup and a pulled pork, mac-and-cheese sandwich outside at a table. After finishing lunch, we walked the grounds and took one of the walking trails through the orchard.
The next couple of days was carb heaven with several different kinds of donuts. Different specialty donuts are offered throughout the month of November and change frequently. During the weekend I was there, the donuts available were the classic apple cider, cinnamon sugar, snickerdoodle, blueberry, blueberry-lemon, and maple bacon.
After tasting this delectable smorgasbord, I would have to say my favorite donut was the blueberry. The texture of the crispy layer of glaze on the outside preceding the burst of warm blueberry cake on the inside was heavenly. However, I don’t think you can go wrong with any choice you make.
Special Fall Events at Brant’s
It’s virtually impossible to envision apple orchards and cider without the backdrop of fall. However, Brant’s Apple Orchard does an exceptional job of blending the fall season into its products and activities.
The season starts in early August and runs through Thanksgiving. The official start of the fall season is the Fall Festival held on the first Saturday of October every year. The centerpiece of this festival is the 5K Trail Race, which amassed 130 contestants in 2021.
Runners navigate the trail system through the orchard that owner Brian Diehl built himself. Don’t be deceived by the fun and relaxing atmosphere though. After walking up and down some of the trails and varied terrain myself, it’s clear that a 5K race would be quite challenging.
In addition to the race, the entire day is packed with activities for the whole family to enjoy: horse-drawn wagon rides, tractor-drawn hayrides, a craft show, bounce houses, face painting, carnival games, and apple launching. Tickets are available for all these activities, and the proceeds help fund scholarships for two lucky high school students every year.
Brian added, “The Fall Festival started in 2015 on the first Saturday in October with the original intention of funding scholarships. This day was chosen so it did not interfere with the Covered Bridge Festival and the Grape Jamboree (two other very important county/state-wide events).”
The Haunted Woods
The Haunted Woods is also a big fall event at Brant’s Apple Orchard and took place over two of three planned consecutive Saturdays (October 16th, 23rd, and 30th) leading up to Halloween in 2021. The excitement kicked off at 7:00 p.m. and concluded at 11:00 p.m.
Tickets were $10 apiece, and 70% of the proceeds benefited the local Buckeye Band Boosters. The remaining 30% was immediately used for laying gravel on the trails for more manageable navigating in poor weather.
Brian admitted, “Without the impromptu construction of the gravel trails, the second weekend of The Haunted Woods would not have been possible this year. Between a good fundraiser, a cold, wet night, and a newly constructed gravel path, we have some good stories to tell.”
The idea for The Haunted Woods fundraiser was brought to Brian in 2018 by the Jefferson High School junior class. Over 1,000 tickets were sold in that first year alone. Various boosters from other local schools have benefitted every year since then.
If you’re brave enough to try this experience, the night starts with a hayride from the main market to the entrance of The Haunted Woods. You make your way through the treacherous maze full of scares back to the market, where you can purchase hot cider, warm donuts, or fresh popcorn.
Families can also have fun participating in the Halloween Kids Event and Doggy Costume Day during The Haunted Woods events.
Orchard View Villas
If grand events aren’t your style and you and your friends or family want a more exclusive, laid-back, and carefree experience, then Brant’s Apple Orchard offers two on-site vacation rentals called the Orchard View Villas. The Sansa Suite and the Cortland Cottage each sport their own unique view and style, but both grant you access to the entire 80-acre property.
Even though I live in the area, I would highly consider Brant’s property for a family gathering or special occasion. With the meticulous care shown by the staff and owners along with the beautiful landscape, I know my family and friends would be given a fantastic experience.
Preparing for an Excursion to Brant’s
There are some general considerations to weigh before heading to Brant’s Apple Orchard, whether for a big event or a casual impromptu visit. I’ve learned to always check their Facebook page.
Brian emphasized the importance and usefulness of the Facebook page and was proud of the way it has connected Brant’s with customers and followers.
Brant’s is highly interactive on Facebook with consistent daily updates for hours of operation, special events, product availability, and other important information. When I have a hankering for a specific donut or that amazing pulled pork, mac-and-cheese sandwich, then I call ahead of time to check availability or reserve an order.
Where to Park
You can park along the side of the gravel driveway toward the entrance of the property or in the main paved parking lot. Handicap-accessible spaces are available too. We wanted a walk in the beautiful weather, so we parked at the end of the driveway.
What to Wear
Dress appropriately for the weather since the best experience is definitely outside in nature. I should have worn boots during our visit because the ground was still quite soppy from recent rain.
Hours of Operation
The hours of operation during my visit and for November were Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. These hours change from month to month but are relatively similar for the entire season. Bathrooms are available separate from the main building.
Any more needed information can be found on the aforementioned Facebook page or Brant’s official website.
History and Background of Brant’s Apple Orchard
Founded in 1980 by the Simmons family, this orchard has blossomed from a simple, rustic apple orchard into the multi-faceted attraction many have come to enjoy today.
Roy and Debbie Brant purchased the property in the early ’90s and dreamed of fashioning the orchard into an exclusive fall destination that draws patrons from all over Ohio and beyond. By adding trees, forming a closed-in market, and building a bakery that produces famous apple cider donuts and slushies, their dream started taking shape.
The Brants even opened the orchard up to school tours and hayrides, and I was lucky enough to partake in those experiences as a young kid. I still have vivid memories, stretching back to grade school, when we took field trips to Brant’s Apple Orchard and rode the hayride tour, ate delicious donuts, and drank the cold refreshing cider.
Development Under New Ownership the Past 8 Years
The Brants’ success and stapled reputation within our community continued until their retirement in 2014 when they sold the business to Brian and Jenn Diehl. The couple has kept the name and only enhanced the success and reputation of the orchard over the past eight years.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and interview Brian about his family’s purchase of Brant’s Apple Orchard and their ever-growing contributions and enhancements to the property.
Q: “What drew you and your wife to purchase the property?”
A: “My wife and I were looking to purchase a business at the time and wanted something specific and integral to our local communities. We knew the success and passion of the Brant family and believed this was a wise business decision.”
Enhancements & Expansions
Since the purchase in 2014, the Diehls have added even more trees, outdoor and indoor seating areas, a uniquely styled playground in 2015, a paved and expanded parking lot, interactive walking trails, an expanded market with a lunch menu in 2017, and so much more.
Brian explained, “We added these features to meet customers’ needs and accommodate the rising traffic. We wanted people to stay longer and experience the orchard to its fullest. Currently, we have invested $1.1 million back into the property.”
Even with all the additions and expanded business, the Diehls have found a way to maintain Brant’s Apple Orchard’s rustic and rural appeal. Like my experience almost 25 years ago, it still offers educational school tours through the orchard.
Fun Fact: Brian says, “Until two years ago, we were still using a 125-year-old apple cider press from the Brant family. They had purchased it during their tenure as owners. This press is on display as you walk toward the market area inside.”
While talking with Brian, I admired the passion he has for his business and the loyalty he has to his employees and the community. Not only does he want to run a successful business, but he also wants to give back to our local communities.
More Fall Experiences in Ohio
When the fall season is upon us, go enjoy everything Brant’s Apple Orchard has to offer in Ashtabula Ohio and create some memories of your own. Also, consider visiting the best cities to enjoy the fall colors and some places with the best fall views.