Western New York’s apple-growers’ taking a weather-related hit
“I’ve owned a number of orchards in other parts of the state, over the years, and I’ve never seen anything like it was this season,” Mann said. “It was brutal.”
In all, Mann took a 90 percent loss this season from his approximate 200 trees. Other growers throughout the state and the nation are continuing to battle the effects of an early spring freeze and one of the worse nationwide droughts in many years.
Linda Quinn, a registered dietician with the New York Apple Association, said the United States Department of Agriculture crop forecast in August put New York’s crop at 14 million boxes, a 54 percent decline from last year. The state averaged about 30.7 million boxes during the last five years, she said.
“We had record-breaking numbers the last five years,” she said. “So we’re confident that will balance out, this season. We’re still seeing a good mixture of peoples’ favorite apples, so far, this season.”
The overall U.S. crop forecast was down about 15 percent, from 224 million boxes to 192 million boxes. In New York, that caused the harvest to begin three weeks earlier than usual. In addition, Quinn said certain varieties should be sweeter because of the dry weather and the hot, summer sun.
Loren Bowers, owner of Red Barrel Cider Mill in Boston, which is currently open for the “apple-squeezin’ season,” said he has not seen a season this poor since his family took over the local business in 1967.
“Just awful,” he said. “It’s hit everyone very hard. This has never happened before.”
Although his cider prices have risen, due to the hard season, Bowers said, “I’m hearing the grocery stores are up to $7.99 a gallon. So we’re still able to offer a little bit of a deal.”
The apple prices at Red Barrel are up by approximately 30 cents from last year, but Bowers said that customers coming into the store have, for the most part, understood.
“You get some complaints, but what are you going to do?” he said. “They’re making adjustments, just like we are. But most people understand.”
Mann said that his expenses, like most other sellers’, will not change. In addition, some sellers have contracts to honor with companies like Mott’s®.
“That puts them in a pretty bad position,” he said. “They’ll either have to buy apples from somewhere else or just simply say they can’t supply them.”
Brant Apple Farm is located on Route 249 in Brant. For more information, visit www.brantapplefarm.com. Red Barrel Cider Mill is located at 8978 Boston State Road in Boston. For more information, call 941-5959.