December 4, 2021

Apples sparse as season begins

Growers hoping to see bigger, more flavorful fruit with later crop

Shenandoah Briere/staff reporter

Joanna Cornell, a co-owner of Grisamore Farms in Locke, points out how some trees have apples with others don’t. She said a number of things can affect the apple crop, from weather to the number of apples from the season before.

Joanna Cornell grabbed the McIntosh apple off a tree Monday morning, took a bite and her face scrunched up. They weren’t quite ready, she said. Cornell is one of the owners of Grisamore Farms in Locke, which has a 17-acre apple orchard.

Although it opened up for u-pick Sept. 7 Cornell said the first apples of the season has been a little slow and she hasn’t had as big of a crop so far compared to last year.

“There’s definitely less apples,” she said, pointing out trees that had a few apples and others that haven’t gotten any yet. “We don’t know if it’s because they (the tree) had such a large crop last year.”

But it also could be because of some spring frost or a cold snap that hit in August.

“It might be a combination, we’re not really sure,” she said.

She noted a lot of things can affect the apple crop. For example, if a cold snap hits it could freeze the apples on the inside, making them no good.

However, Cornell is hoping the crop will get much better as the season continues and they begin pressing cider. Their season goes until late October or early November.

Over at Anderson’s Farm Market in Homer the bins of apples are in and ready for buying and eating, but when it comes to early season varieties like Zestar! the quantities aren’t that large, said owner Matt DeHart.

He gets his apples from Cherry Lawn Fruit Farm in Sodus and through the Syracuse Regional Market. He said the growers told him things are about 10 days behind.

“Our growers are saying a lot of it is pollination issues,” he said, leading to a less plentiful start to the season.

The U.S. Apple Association projected the 2019 crop to be around 29,762 bushels, down from 33,214 bushels last year. It’s also slightly down from the five-year average of 31,500 bushels.

Because of that DeHart didn’t put out the apple bins until the Sept. 3, when he usually does it the last week of August.

But he said the flavor and size is still there and the growers think the later apple crop will be much larger.

He also noted a lot of customers are waiting for Cortland apples to come in.

“Cortlands are our top seller by far,” he said. “I think part of it has to do with people in Cortland are proud to be Cortland people.”

At Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil, owner Matt Hollenbeck is still preparing to open up. On Aug. 30 he told customers via a social media post that he wasn’t sure if the store would open up on time — usually the third Saturday in September — due to the apple crop.

Hollenbeck gets his apples from a variety of growers mostly along the Lake Ontario area. He sells them, uses them in pies, cider and other products.

However, a cool, wet spring and the cold snap in August hit the growers and so “things are behind,” he said.

He said September warmed up enough to allow enough apples to be brought to the store to open at 9 a.m. on Sept. 21 like he had planned, but said “there’s probably going to be a couple of varieties we have a week later than usual.”

“The first week’s not going to have the widest selection in the world,” he said.

Hollenbeck said he’ll get apples delivered every week, sometimes two to three times a week to keep up with demand. However, while things might not be plentiful the first week, he’s hoping it picks up later into the season as well.

And while the number of bushels may be a little down this year, Susan Brown, a professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca said the apples will be bigger and brighter.

“2019 should be an excellent year for apple quality. While we had a very wet early season, which made control of early diseases difficult, that was followed by sun and heat,” said Brown, who grows Snapdragon and RubyFrost varieties. “These recent cold nights are perfect for enhancing both color and quality. Due to all of the early rainfall, apple size should be bigger this year.”