Apple picking time: Crop not as big but apples will be larger, juicier than last year

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Windsor Star/Sharon Hill

 

This year’s apple crop in Ontario won’t be as big as last year but expect to see larger and juicier apples in orchards and in stores.

The apple harvest has begun and since Labour Day weekend, Wagner Orchards east of Windsor has had 4,000 to 5,000 people visit the pick-your-own orchard on Lakeshore Road 103.

“The size and the quality is good. There’s just maybe not quite as many,” owner Harold Wagner said Tuesday. “We’ve been picking Gala (apples). They’re really nice.”

The rain that caused widespread flooding in Windsor last month helped the apples get larger in some cases, he said. 

Last year’s drought is partly to blame for the apple crop being about 20 per cent less than last year, said the Ontario Apple Growers, the group that represents more than 200 apple producers in the province. Wagner said many orchards have irrigation to get through dry spells. He said apple buds are set a year ahead and the trees had less energy to produce buds after a bumper crop last year. People were picking apples in November last year, he said.

Customers should be able to pick their own apples at his orchards until Thanksgiving weekend this year and he also sells bagged apples. He usually sees a jump in apple picking at his orchard as soon as the weather turns cooler.

To find other pick-your-own apple orchards in Leamington, Kingsville and Lakeshore visit Tourism Windsor Essex County Pelee Island’s pick your own guide or find farms to buy apples or pick your own through the Essex County Federation of Agriculture’s Buy Local map.

About 19 per cent of apples in the province are grown in Essex County, Chatham-Kent and Lambton and Middlesex counties. Ontario orchards have about 15 different varieties of apples grown on 15,000 acres. The crop is worth about $60 million.

According to an economic impact study released earlier this year, the Ontario apple industry, which includes growing, packing and processing apples, generates annual economic activity of $634 million and supports more than 5,100 jobs.

Ontario is a net importer of apples and it is estimated that apple orchard acreage could increase by at least 650 acres per year over the next two years, the study said.