Readers of USA Today ranked a nearly 40-year-old fruit farm in Central Massachusetts among the Top 10 apple orchards in the country.

In its readers’ choice ranking of orchards, the national publication ranked Tougas Family Farm of Northboro sixth last week.

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USA Today wrote of Tougas Family Farm:

“This second generation fruit farm in Massachusetts invites visitors to come pick their own apples, berries, peaches, nectarines and pumpkins. The farm grows 30 varieties of apples, available from mid-August to the end of October. Families can join kid-friendly activities in the Barnyard or Playground, while the Farm Kitchen sells baked goods.

Reached for comment, Andre Tougas, owner of Tougas Family Farm, said, “We were thrilled and excited and honored and humbled, because our customers voted for us. We were humbled that they spent the time to do it. It’s an honor to be listed in the Top 10 in the country. But I know there’s a lot of great orchards here in Massachusetts that could also be on the list.”

The farm was started by Andre’s parents, Maurice and Phyllis in 1981. Andre was an infant at the time. The family has since added two neighboring farms.

“They’ve gone into farmer retirement, which means they only work 60 hours a week,” Andre said of his parents.

Asked what he believes makes the farm so appealing, Andre said:

“Our main focus is a pick-your-own harvest. I think, with a lot of other farms, it’s a secondary part of their business.

There have been significant improvements to the customer experience, including a better check-in system, the addition of wagon rides to the orchard, expansion of its playground and barnyard animals, and improved landscaping and grounds, the owner said.

“We try to handle our customers better than anyone else and give them the best experience possible,” Andre said.

The farm had been admitting about 100,000 to 150,000 customers a year. But this year’s coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a sharp decline.

“We’re running at one-third capacity this fall for apple season due to COVID-19,” Andre said. “We’ve scaled back considerably.”

In addition, there’s no school tour program this year.

The family is encouraging customers to come on weekdays because it is not as busy as it usually is this time of year.

Discounts on apples and cider doughnuts are offered, he said.