It’s September, and apples are clustered on tree branches across New England and New York. Orchardists are expecting an ample, though not quite bumper, crop across the region.
New York is the second-largest apple producer in the country, trailing the state of Washington. It’s known for hardy varieties such as McIntosh, Honeycrisp, and Empire. The state is forecasting a slightly smaller harvest than the five-year 30 million carton average, according to NY Apple Association President Jim Allen. “Last winter we had some pretty severe cold weather. And unfortunately we did see some results of that cold weather this spring with the bud development. So our overall crop in New York this year probably will not be at the same size as it was last year because of that. But what we do have on the trees is shaping up to be an excellent crop. Actually up in the North Country, where the best McIntosh are grown, McIntosh is a real hardy apple, so it looks like the Mac crop is going to be just exceptional. Hudson Valley looks very strong. It got a little bit dry for them recently. But actually dry growing conditions yields very sweet fruit. Western New York, which is the largest growing area of the state, they’re still going to have a strong crop but they’re down probably 10 to 12, 13 percent.”
At Forrence Orchards in Peru, about 10 percent of the crop has been harvested according to co-owner Peter Forrence. “On the trees the fruit looks beautiful. The biggest dilemma now is that we aren’t getting the weather we need for apple ripening. You need certainly for McIntosh apples, which is our main variety, you need cold evenings and sunny days. And right now is a pivotal time. The next four to six weeks is the period that these apples need to ripen and be picked.”
Orchards have seen record years recently and this year is continuing that trend according to Cornell Cooperative Extension Tree Fruit Specialist Anna Wallis. “This year we’ve had what we call a snowball bloom. So all of the blossoms were opened all at once and there were a lot of them, which is really great. That led to a really great fruit set, a really good pollination period, there was great weather when that happened, and just overall a very good crop.”
Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association Executive Director Steve Justis says apple growers are very excited about this year’s crop. “We’re looking at close to a million bushels which for Vermont is going to probably be 10 to 15 percent higher than what we’ve been the last couple years.”
New England Apple Association Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks is preparing a booth at the Big E in Springfield to display apples and apple products. “The three categories that growers put their apples into are early season, mid and late season. Right now the mid season are ripening, and some are ripe. This year there’s such a big crop, there’s so many apples to pick, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes in a little bit into November.”