Wisconsin apple harvest decimated
Local orchards producing fewer apples
By James Card
“Everywhere it’s poor,” says Brian Christensen of Christensen’s Orchards. “Back in April we had a couple nights of 24 degrees. The blossoms got hit. It affected a lot of people in this area but we got a few apples.”
At his apple orchard north of Waupaca, a good annual harvest yields 1,400 bushels. This year he harvested only 200.
Each year he will press about 1,500 gallons of apple cider. This year: 0.
“And nobody’s happy about it, either,” he said. “Apples are hard to come by.”
His orchard has 15 varieties and Gala and Cortland apples fared a little bit better than the other kinds.
He knows of an orchardist in Wittenberg who was wiped out and other apple orchards in central Wisconsin have reported poor apple crops.
Many have closed down their pick-your-own apple programs because there are not enough to go around.
Casey’s Orchard east of Steven’s Point is having the same problem. They are usually open into February and still selling apples. They expect to be sold out by Thanksgiving.
Like Christensen’s Orchard, they will be producing no cider.
“We don’t have the apples to do it, said Casey Janowski, the owner. “This happened one time before in 2102. We froze out like that and there was barely anything on the trees. This year we’re in a little better state as we do have apples to go.”
Harvest down statewide
According to the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, the apple harvest down across the state with the best numbers being reported at around 50 percent of their normal harvest and others reporting a complete loss.
“It’s all over the state. This year it seems to be pretty far spread,” said Anna Maenner, executive director of the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association.
She knows of no orchard in Wisconsin that has a 100 percent crop. What is unusual is that previous apple crop failures tend to be in isolated regions in the state but this year no area was spared.
Next year’s apples are created the autumn before and certain conditions occurred starting last year that would later devastate this year’s harvest.
“We had some dry weather last fall that took the trees into winter under stress. And that stress manifested itself in fewer buds being out there. And then we had a couple episodes of frost. And some people that got away from the frost got hit by hail,” said Maenner.
“And then right when the blossoms were open and the bees needed to be doing their pollinating, we had bad weather. So the bees didn’t fly. They don’t fly in the rain. So they didn’t get out there to do their job,” she continued.
“There was a frost in April and a frost again Memorial Day weekend. There are apples that come ripe early—that come ripe at the end of July, and we have apples that ripen at the end of October. The early varieties got hit with the spring frost and the late varieties got hit with the Memorial Day frost,” said Maenner.