Sky Top started as a curiosity that grew into a business experiment and quickly became a family affair. Today, we (David and Lindsey Butler) run Sky Top as a full-time business. As any farmer can tell you, we are working up here even in the months when the "open" sign is taking a vacation.
Back in the late 1960s, Everette Butler (David's father) purchased a home in Flat Rock. Everette had fallen in love with this area when he began bringing David and his other children to summer camp each year. When Everette purchased his land, it only had a few apple trees on it. Though he hadn't intended to operate an orchard, it wasn't long before he began exploring the idea of farming apples. After much research and help from an extension agent, Mt. McAlpine's 70 to 80 acres were soon full of apple trees and thus began the Sky Top commercial apple farm which sold exclusively to area supermarkets.
David, in college in Florida, was soon summoned to help out with the new venture. David eventually transferred to USC in Columbia to be closer to the farm. David met Lindsey in college and soon she was in the apple business too.
We've come a long way since those early days. Our children are grown and on their own and many of our employees have been with us long enough to have their own families working here too. Every year, you'll find us behind the desk or in the stand or orchard every day we are open just as it has been since we opened to the public.
Though we opened the orchard originally as a commercial wholesale orchard, we decided it didn't feel right to pick apples prior to ripeness just so they'd travel better to the market so we converted our orchard to u-pick. Now, we don't open areas for picking until we've tested for sugar content and made sure apples are at peak perfection.
To make a visit to the orchard more fun for guests, we added picnic tables and shelters so families could spend time with each other enjoying autumn breezes and the fruits of the season. Later, we added an apple house and pumpkin house for kids to explore and when everyone wanted more, we added hayrides. And who knew that apple cider doughnuts would be such a hit? Though we add more machines every year, word-of-mouth keeps us hopping on busy weekends and planning for more growth the following season.
Our goal continues to be to make visiting the orchard a day of fun and memory-making so we make adjustments every year based on observation and feedback. It is a constant balance to keep the mom & pop roadside stand feel and nostalgia of yesterday while trying to keep up with the demand for agritourism and entertainment that abounds today.They don't call them growing pains for nothing!
We haven't lost our enthusiasm for the farm and enjoy passing along our knowledge and appreciation for nature and agriculture to others. Often your children will meet us before you do because they've visited on a field trip. Many of today's kids don't have ties to a farm like generations past so we like showing them how apples grow, what it takes to get an apple from the tree to their tummies and why not all apple varieties are available all season.
We hope you'll enjoy all our mountain has to offer and that you'll appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making Sky Top available to you. Though we'd love to never have to say the words, "Please don't..." know that all our rules and policies within the orchard are there out of necessity. Apples picked too early and discarded because they don't taste as expected or those thrown as fun or picked as props for photos means there are fewer apples on the tree for the next guest and can even shorten the picking season. We hope you'll love our orchard as much as we do and that you'll help us keep the orchard ripe and ready for the next family to visit.
There is nothing quite like fall on the mountain with all the scents of the season and sounds of the farm. Take time to enjoy it. We do. Thank you for making us part of your family memories for generations. We truly appreciate it and you.