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How ‘bout them apples

The apple harvest this year is significantly smaller than last year’s. The reasons include the weather and the fact that the trees need to “rest” after last year’s fruitful harvest.
Contributed photos

By Isabel Braverman
October 19, 2016

REGION — Apple picking: the quintessential fall activity. But if you look forward to apple season, you may be disappointed this fall, as there aren’t that many apples this year. Last year’s harvest yielded a large quantity of apples, but this year it’s a different story. There are a few reasons for this.

“The [reason for the] lack of apples was three-fold,” said Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cidery, “but it also depends on the age of the tree, the variety of the tree and the relationship of the tree to the forest.” Brennan and his partner Polly Giragosian produce hard cider from local apples. They source their apples from all over the region and name the cider after the location of the apples.

One of the reasons for the lack of apples this year was the weather. As Tim Gorzynski of Gorzynski Farm in Cochecton Center, NY explains, late winter was very warm, causing the trees to blossom early, but then a freeze in late spring killed off the blossoms. He said the apple harvest season can start as early as July and go through October, with the peak time being September though October. His farm has around 100 trees in the orchard, and this year they harvested during the past three weeks and have already picked all there is. “Driving around Sullivan County, I don’t see any apples,” he said.

Brennan said the other reason for a smaller harvest is because, “Apple trees are naturally biennial, and after a big fruit year like 2015, the trees are going ‘to rest.’ In fact, the lack of 2016 fruit was predictable as early as August 2015, when the trees set up buds.” The trees need some time off. Gorzynski said a fruitful harvest “puts a strain on the tree to produce so much fruit,” and the next year they can’t produce as much.

In addition to the weather affecting the blossoms, Brennan said, “Rain and cold during blossom also kept the bees indoors and not out pollinating the flowers.” Weather, time and bees are the three main reasons for this year’s smaller apple harvest.

At Aaron Burr, their goal is to average 600 cases a year. “But we saw 2015 was a big ‘on-year’ and so we also knew 2016 would be a big ‘off-year,’” Brennan said. For example, in 2015 they made 1,000 cases of cider, and this year they will make about 300. A bushel of apples makes about a case of cider, which is 2.4 gallons. They picked or bought about 1,000 bushels of wild Sullivan County apples last year compared to 200 so far this year.