WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - An apple a day might be good for your health, but if you want to pick your own, you might want to hasten your way to your local orchard.
Many orchards in the region were affected by extreme weather conditions this spring. “Across the boards from Michigan to the East Coast, apple producers lost a good 37 percent of their crops this season,” said Irv Silverman, owner and operator at Silverman’s Farm in Easton, Conn.
Randy Pratt, owner of Wilkens Fruit Farm in Yorktown Heights, was spared any damage. “We were lucky enough to be further south than many of the orchards, and we only experienced low temperatures of 30 degrees, while some saw temperatures of 25 degrees.”
“People think the problem was the late April frost,” Silverman said. But the real culprit, he said, was in a spate of tropical-like weather that blanketed the region during mid-March, when temperatures soared to the mid-80s. The weather, in effect, tricked the spring growth into blossoming too early.
Then came the late-April frost, when temperatures in the region dipped below 30 degrees.
Like Pratt, most of Silverman’s apples fared well. They were protected from the plummeting temperatures, as his crop is located on a small hill that isolated the delicate blossoms. A slight difference of just one degree separated Silverman’s apples from an unproductive fate, he said.
“We’re at 80 percent of apple output,” Silverman said.
Some orchards did not fare as well. Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel, Conn. lost almost 90 percent of its apple crop, according to a statement on its website.
Pratt said the only adverse effect from the weather has been an early ripening – by approximately 10-14 days – of most of his apples. As a result, “The picking season started early,” he said. The remainder of the picking season will depend on the weather and the amount of people who visit his farm. Both factors will determine how long the apples stay on the trees, he said.
Apple-pickers, it seems, are taking advantage of the recent temperate weather. Both Pratt and Silverman hope their crops cooperate with the demand.
“At this rate, said Silverman, “the apple-picking season could be over by Columbus Day weekend."
Like many farms, apples are not the only attraction, particularly to younger visitors. “We have a tractor-driven wagon ride that goes out to the orchard, and we also have a hay pile and tractors for children to play on and a pumpkin patch that opens the first week in October.”
Here is a list of some regional farms for apple buying, picking, hay riding and other autumnal activities:
Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard, North Salem.
Wilkens Fruit Farm, Yorktown Heights.
Salingers Orchards, Brewster.
Stuart's Farrm, Somers.
Silverman’s Farm, Easton, Conn.