As New York apple picking enters its peak season, local farmers reported a hearty yield and healthy crop this year.
Early estimates from the New York Apple Association, a nonprofit trade group, indicated New York farmers will produce 31 million bushels this year and as many as 34 million bushels — an average crop for New York, according to Bill Michaels, who co-owns the Fly Creek Cider Mill with his wife, Brenda.
New York is the second-largest producer of apples nationwide, second to Washington, and the largest apple producer on the East Coast, Michaels said.
The cider mill purchases its apples from growers in Columbia and Onondaga counties, both of which had an “excellent” crop this year, he said.
“The size, flavor and color is all very good — so good, in fact, that cider apples are hard to come by,” Michaels said.
Cider is made from apples deemed unfit for sale, known as utility apples, he explained; typically because they’re too small, too green or have some sort of physical defect.
The Fly Creek Cider Mill presses cider on weekends and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Middlefield Orchard had a heavy crop this year, according to owner Willy Bruneau.
“Our apples are looking great — over 20 different varieties,” he said.
The apples “sized up exceptionally well” because of heavy rains in late August, Bruneau said. “They have good flavor this year.”
A hard freeze last spring diminished the crop size, he said, “which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
“If your crop size is too big, the apples turn out small,” Bruneau said.
About 20% to 30% of each year’s crop is lost to insects, he said, because of the farm’s minimal use of pesticides.
“We like to eat our own fruit too, so we try not to spray too much,” he said.
Middlefield Orchard is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and offers a variety of free family activities, including pumpkin patch hunts, hay forts, a corn maze and hayrides.
For more information about New York state apples, visit applesfromny.com.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.