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Seeing Red

While projections are down statewide, local apple orchards expect a big year

August 24, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

Although orchards in some parts of the state took a hit from hail storms this spring, local growers report a bumper crop.

Peter Gregg of the New York Apple Association said the recently passed U.S. farm bill includes disaster relief for farms hit by the June 16 hail storm, but local farms won't need to take part in the low-interest loans and direct aid that is expected when details of the bill are worked out.

"We're trying to make sure consumers know there are plenty of good apples for sale," Gregg said Tuesday. "The Mohawk [River] Valley crop is looking good."

Article Photos

Bill Trojan/The Leader-Herald

Ron Kelly is shown inspecting apples at Lake View Orchards in Mayfield Wednesday. Ed Pavlus inspects apples in Palatine.

Gregg said the combination of rainfall without an extended heat wave provided ideal growing conditions for apples in the area.

"There's been the right blend of sun and rainfall for size and flavor," Gregg said. "A heat wave can slow growth. Moderate temperatures make for a good crop."

He did admit that because of hail damage in some parts of the state, the overall crop would be somewhat less than normal.

"Those damaged apples won't go to waste, though," Gregg said. "They will go into cider."

Local apple growers agree with Gregg.

Ron Kelly of Lake View Orchards in Mayfield said this year was his best since going into the business.

"We've been in the business 14 years and this year is the best," Kelly said. "Our apples have the best size and color yet."

Kelly said his orchards on Mountain Road produce nine varieties of apples which will be available at a farmstand, at the farmers market in Northville and customers also can pick their own apples.

About a mile north of Nelliston in Palatine, Ed Pavlus of Pavlus Orchard also reported being unscathed by spring storms.

"We've had no damage here," Pavlus said. "The apple crop is very nice. It's a beauty."

Pavlus said his orchard produces 13 kinds of apples, which are mostly sold at a farmstand.

"We also have pick-your-own," he said. "With selling potatoes and pumpkins and other items, our season is extended."

Pavlus said he has been farming more than 20 years, and this is a very good season for apples.

"I know Altamont [Albany County] got hit with hail," Pavlus said. "It also hit the Finger Lakes and the Syracuse area. I guess we're just lucky here."

In a June 27 letter to Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote:

"The hailstorm on June 16, 2008, was one of New York's worst storms in recent history and dispersed hail that was over an inch in diameter across a large swath of upstate New York affecting 23 New York counties. The storm damaged apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches, corn, onions and other crops, financially crippling New York's farmers hit by the worst of the storm.

Gregg said the crop of 22.5 million bushels expected in the state this year ranks second in the nation. That estimate is down from 30 million bushels last year.

"Our apples going to the marketplace this fall will be the absolute highest quality," said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, in a news release. "Consumers will be delighted with the taste, crispness and the increased size of New York Apples this season, and best of all, they are home grown."

The harvest will begin in September when the McIntosh variety ripens. The statewide harvest runs through November, with more than 20 different commercial varieties to be picked, ranking New York's crop as the most diverse in the nation, according to the news release.

The state crop of traditional varieties like McIntosh and Empire looks promising, growers said.

"While some unfortunate growing conditions affected some orchards this summer, there will still be local apples to satisfy the growing consumer demand," Allen said.

The annual NYAA crop prediction is determined by a consensus of growers representing six apple growing districts throughout the state. Other experts who contribute to the prediction include crop advisers, processing apple buyers and Cornell Cooperative Extension agents. The consensus number was reached during a conference call July 23.

The state's most popular varieties are McIntosh, with 17 percent of the state's total production, and Empire, with 12 percent of the state's total. Other major varieties in descending order are Red Delicious, Rome, Cortland and Idared.

Apple consumption is on the rise due to continued university research proving that apples can help fight cancer, lower cholesterol and help dieters lose weight. Apples are the third most popular fruit item in grocery store produce sections behind bananas and grapes, the news release stated.

The hailstorm was particularly heartbreaking for apple farmers. New York ranks second in the United States in apple production, and current demand for apples is higher than it has been in years."

Gregg said the locally available fruit was good for both farmer and consumer.

"Buy locally," Gregg said. "Local means better, fresher and at less cost."

He said the local grower had an advantage over shippers who had to deal with high fuel costs in transport.

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Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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