A less wetÂ 2019 will yield a high-quality apple crop this year,Â growers around the county say, with many u-pick orchards already ramping up forÂ theÂ season.
Last year was difficultÂ for apple growersÂ due to the amount of rain the county experienced, according to Henderson County Cooperative Extension Director Terry Kelley. This year hasnâ€™t had nearly as much rain.
â€œThis year, I think our quality is going to be much better. In fact, the quality is looking as good as it has in probably a few years,” Kelley said.
In regard to yield, thisÂ year will probably not be the heaviest, Kelley said, but it always varies by variety and location.Â
â€œSome varieties are going to be very plentiful. Others may be not quite as plentiful. But I think weâ€™re going to have a better quality of fruit than most people have seen in at least a couple of years because of the better conditions this year,” he added.
The county still experienced some wet weather, Kelley noted, especially during the spring. Any time it rains frequently, farmers have to increase the amount of time they spray the crop. He said there wasnâ€™t a huge impact from direct freezing, but the weather did stay cool during the spring, which may have impacted bee pollination.
â€œWith what we faced last year with the rain, basically 100 inches of rain throughout the year, itâ€™s hard for it not to be better than last year,â€ Kelley said. â€œBut every year brings its own challenges. Farmers are used to that. Thatâ€™s the nature of the beast in farming.â€
Several u-pick mountain orchards have already opened or are prepared to. Grandad’s Apples opened last week and Justus Orchard heldÂ an opening celebration Saturday.
Sky Top Orchard held its grand opening Friday with Ginger Golds, Honeycrisp, Asian Pears, cider and donuts on sale. Owner David Butler called this year’s applesÂ a â€œbumper crop,â€ an unusually good harvest with quality size and abundance. He suspects it willÂ be a good tourist season for u-pick orchards around the county.
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard said on its website that it plans to open in mid-August.Â The Stepps are celebrating their 50th year of pick-your-own apples this season.
Owner Mike Stepp said the quality looks pretty good right now, and he’sÂ expecting anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of a full crop. Stepp said nobody had a total loss and overall, the county probably has 70 percent of a full yield.
â€œThe quality is pretty good,â€ said Stepp. â€œItâ€™s always kind of a struggle to keep up with the diseases when you have a lot of rain, but itâ€™s probably not quite as bad as last year.â€
Kelley said roadside vendors will likely begin opening later in the month or in September. By mid-August most of the early varieties will be available, such as Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp and Gala. The season could lastÂ up to October or even early November with Granny Smith and Pink Lady varieties.
â€œOnce we get started, thereâ€™s a general supply coming out throughout the year, throughout the season. But the varieties change to some degrees. CertainlyÂ weâ€™ll have varieties available throughout the year, but you donâ€™t go looking for Granny Smiths in early September.â€
Overall, Kelley thinks the county will have a decent apple season. He said growers depend on people coming back for the flavors grown locally here.
â€œThe taste of apples grown on the East Coast is just so much better than those growing on the West Coast, so itâ€™s always good to be able to get access to these local apples,â€ Kelley said. â€œYou know the flavor is going to be far superior compared to something shipped from somewhere else.”Â