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Your mead will only taste as good as its constituent ingredients, so finding amazing fruit is one of the most important parts of making melomels. Buying from local farms is beneficial because you can ask the farmers if they use pesticides and you can pick it at its peak of ripeness. It is also usually more cost effective than buying from the store. Pick Your Own is a very valuable resource that makes it easy to find the fruit you want near you.
Once you find a farm that grows the fruit you want, call and ask about when it will be ripe (do this in June for most fruits). Most farms have a facebook page that you can follow for updates on when the fruit is ready to pick. Make sure to set facebook to give you notifications on their posts for the summer so you don't miss out! Bring sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat because picking 10+ lbs of fruit takes a long time.
Wash it if you choose (important to do if they use pesticides) and let it dry. Freeze for later use. This has the added benefit of increasing the amount of fruit flavor you will get from the fruit. If you choose not to use campden tablets, it is advisable to make a standard strength or sack mead. Undesirable organism have a hard time surviving high levels of alcohol.
You can use the fruit in primary fermentation or in secondary. Some mead and red wine makers choose to ferment on the skins of the fruit to give the mead or wine bitterness and astringency. If complexity is what you strive for, this is a good way to get that. Some mead makers will use the fruit in secondary to give the mead a fresh fruit character. You can also choose to do both. Just remember that you will lose more mead than usual when racking off of the fruit. Starting out with more mead (and using a 7.9 gallon bucket) will make it easier to top-off your carboy.
Finding cider used specifically to make hard cider is difficult in the United States. English cider/mead makers may have an easier time. However, most orchards will produce a cider that is acceptable for making into hard cider. You want a good balance of bitterness, astringency, acidity, and sweetness. If you have a local hard cider producer in your area, ask them where they get their juice. They may even sell it to you.
Great cyser yeasts: Cote Des Blanc, 71B-1122, EC-1118.
For more information on using fruit in mead, read the BJCP Melomel Guide