"So every year is different. I say every year there is a story," said Jim Bove, who manages Chapin Orchards in Essex.
This year's apple story began early, in a very warm couple of weeks in March.
"So we started to see bloom in March, which was a month or more early," Bove said. "Then, we got the inevitable freezes in April. We got down to 19 degrees one night in early April here. And when that happens, a lot of the flowers freeze and become unviable; they can't produce an apple."
Bove estimates this year's crop will be down 50 percent from a normal year, which would yield about 5,000 bushels. But the strange thing is while some trees are light on fruit, others seem close to normal.
"Ideally what we are looking for are apples spaced every 8 inches. So, it's a bit clumped here, but on average this is more typical of what we would like to see," Bove said.
"This is definitely the weirdest year that I have seen in 17 years of growing fruit," said Terry Bradshaw, a researcher at the University of Vermont's Horticulture Farm in South Burlington.
Some varieties here are early bloomers; they were most affected by the frost. Just a few degrees can make a big difference when it comes to frost damage and Bradshaw says even that can vary from tree to tree.
"So if you were to look at this tree here you can see a classic effect of frost damage, where the cold air settles down low. And you can see a fairly decent crop at the top of this fairly young tree, and once you get to about 4-5 feet and down below, there is very few fruit and that is because you can see dramatic changes in temperatures just in small changes in altitude," Bradshaw explained.
Orchards closer to Lake Champlain, where temperatures are warmer, had very little frost. Also Bradshaw says orchards inland in Orange and Washington counties are reporting full crops.
Bove had this advice for his customers: "The crop is also early-- about 10 to 14 days early. So, the story is if you want to pick your apples, you better plan a little earlier than you normally think for apple picking."
And you may find prices up a bit, to make up for a smaller fresh apple crop. But that could vary from orchard to orchard.
Adam's Orchard in Williston says they had very little frost and their apple crop looks great. Other parts of the country have not fared as well. Bradshaw says orchards in western New York and Michigan had massive losses due to the wet spring.
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