Autumn is right around the corner. It's the time of the year we look forward to heading out to area apple orchards but it’ll be harder to find apples this year.
This Fall, Ronald Knutson will have to get used to people only being able to drive by his orchard on Highway 53 south of Eau Claire. Last year his apple orchard had a bumper crop of apples, but this year could not be more different for Knutson. Too many of his trees look like the one behind me with little to no apples, and he estimates his loss this year to be between 90 to 95 percent.
Normally he would open up his apple store or take his apples to local farmers markets but this year…
"Unfortunately, we're not, I don't have enough product to really go to the market with or even really open our store doors with." The bad harvest is thanks to an early spring, followed by a killing frost, and then a hot and dry summer.
"Right now we're small enough it's not our primary source of income, so I’m going to be fine but there's a lot of other orchards...when it's their primary source of income and they suffer these kinds of losses...it's hard on them," explains Knutson.
It will be also hard on our pocket books. Expect to pay more apples in the coming months.
"Even for pick your own, there are some places that are pick your own that aren't even doing it this year because they don't have the product."
Also, Knutson added 400 trees to his expanding 5 year old orchard this year. "They're hanging in there, but they're not growing. They were definitely stressed by the heat. We were putting on as much as 900 gallons of water a day just to keep them alive."
He can only hope they make it through the winter. He's hoping to grow avenue orchard to a pick your own apple place by 2014. But for his current trees and the eleven hundred he'll plant next bring he only hopes for one thing. "Just hope for better weather."