Promising apple season on the way - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Promising apple season on the way

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SOUTH HERO, Vt. - The weather has a huge impact on agriculture.  This summer has been good for berries, but what about this year's fresh apple crop, which is valued at about $10 million? If you add processed apple products like cider and apple sauce, that's another $10-12 million.  After a marginal apple season last year, Vermont farmers are hoping to make up ground this year.  

Ron and Celia Hackett and their family have been growing apples on these 14 acres in South Hero for 48 years.  There are good years and not so good years -- like 2013. "Last year was definitely a down year due to inclement weather during bloom and poor pollination.  The crop was down considerably from what it should have been," Ron Hackett said.

Reporter Judy Simpson:  This year, what are you seeing?

Ron Hackett: This year I see all of the ingredients that we need to produce a fine crop -- they have lined up perfectly this year.

Starting with this past winter, temperatures were a bit milder closer to the lake. Then spring rains that washed out last year's blooms, and kept bees at bay -- putting a big dent in the crop -- held off this year. "Then we had a heavy bloom and we had 5 or 6 perfect days during bloom for the bees to pollinate -- days with temperatures in the 70's --  sunny -- light wind," Hackett said. "There again during bloom -- no temps below 32, so everything lined up just fine."
And the growing season itself has provided plenty of rain, lots of sun and warm temperatures. And more importantly in this orchard -- no hail -- that has damaged crops in other parts of the state.

University of Vermont Extension apple expert Terry Bradshaw has traveled throughout the state checking on this year's crop and says hands down the best apples he has seen are in the islands -- especially at the Hackett's orchard.

But Hackett knows that could all change.

Reporter Judy Simpson: You are a farmer so you know you are not out of the woods yet.

Ron Hackett: You better believe it. You don't count your eggs just yet -- your chickens -- until they hatch. The biggest thing that -- the worst bad thing that can happen of course is weather-related -- hail, high winds -- those would be the two things that would be disruptive at this point.

Meanwhile work continues in the orchard. Smaller apples are being culled to allow the bigger apples more room to grow. "We keep our fingers and toes crossed," Hackett said.

Picking is underway for the early season apples -- the Hackett's grow 47 varieties.  They will be selling apples, baked goods and cider right through Thanksgiving.

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