Tougas Family Farm is a second-generation farm located in Northborough, MA. The 53-acre farm was originally purchased in 1981 by Maurice (“Mo”) and Phyllis Tougas, but it has been owned by their son, Andre Tougas, since 2018.

In 1986, the farm was preserved under the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program run by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Later, in 2001, a neighboring farm was purchased by the family, which added another 35 acres to their production. This enabled them to experiment with new crops such as cherries and plums and new apple varieties like Honeycrisp, Early Fuji, Suncrisp, EverCrisp© and Topaz.

The farm is known for a wide variety of specialties, from U-pick blackberries, cherries, pumpkins, peaches and more to a farm store and kitchen with ice cream, fruit smoothies and cider donuts.

Mo, although semi-retired, still works on the farm behind the scenes, specifically pruning, mowing, spraying and fertilizing. Mo is very passionate about their apple trees and went into specifics about their Honeycrisp apple operation during a recent visit from a cohort from the NAFDMA Convention. (NAFDMA is the International Agritourism Association. Its latest convention took place in Boston and surrounding area.)

Overall, Mo believes “crop load management is the most important aspect when growing Honeycrisps” – making sure the trees are spaced properly and that the number of apples per tree are monitored.

Mo Tougas is semi-retired from his family’s operation, but is still actively involved in orchard management. Photo by Kelsi Devolve

At Tougas Family Farm, the team does not like to see apple trees that are older than 20 years old, so they developed a system where they replant 5% of their trees every single year. As of February 2024, they have around 30,000 apple trees in their orchard.

There are a lot of tasks to be done to manage their apple tree crop load, including hedging twice a year. They first began hedging back in 2011. Mo hedges “about 12 inches, so the trees in total are about two feet wide.” He hedges in February, and then a second time toward the end of June.

“The reason we hedge in the wintertime is just to sort of set the box so when we’re out pruning, we know ‘that’s what a foot is’ and we’re not gonna prune anything past that foot,” he explained.

All of the apple trees are planted at high-density, and the amount of apples per tree is determined by the spacing of the plot.

“We’re shooting for about 2,000 liters per acre… which means we need to produce about half a bushel per tree,” Mo said, while also keeping in mind that a lot of the apples drop to the ground and are wasted. The rule of thumb for the staff is to try to get 50 Honeycrisp apples on trees that are spaced three feet apart, and 35 apples on trees that are spaced 18 inches apart.

In order to better serve the public, the farm has worked closely with UMass Extension to produce their fruit in the safest and most environmentally friendly manner utilizing integrated pest management to reduce and more effectively use the safest crop protectants, according to their website.

In order to make the U-pick events run smoothly, visitors pay for a fruit container on their way into the orchard, paying for the fruit in advance. At Tougas Family Farms, two-thirds of the apples picked are sold as half bushels (20 lbs.), and one-third are sold as a peck (10 lbs.).

For more information on Tougas Family Farm, visit

by Kelsi Devolve