After some local apple farms reported an 80 percent loss of their crop due to freezes early this Spring, the forecast for apple picking season was grim. But, some local farms are saying it was not a total loss for everyone, reporting that 90 to 95 percent of their crop is still intact.
Vincent Sicignano, Orchard Manager at Navarino Orchard, says he is one of the lucky ones, boasting about his crop surviving the warm spring, surviving the early freezes and then surviving the summer drought.
"This season's been rough," Sicignano says. "All spring we were fighting freezes and frosts, and then all summer we've been fighting drought...somehow we came through it with a good crop."
Sicignano says a variety of factors, including luck, contributed to this year's success. Navarino Orchard's location was extremely important, as the farm is perched on top of a hill along Route 20. Because there was no windbreak at their elevation, breezier conditions on the cold nights protected the crop. He says that when there is no wind, and when temperatures drop below 28 degrees, the apple blossoms don't stand a chance. He says other orchards faced challenges because they were sheltered from the wind, resulting in those deadly conditions.
He also mentioned that freshly plowed fields on the windward side of the farm as well as lighting fires during the colder nights helped keep the crop alive.
The warm spring brought many of those orchards ahead of schedule, which put them at risk to the early season freezes. Still, it meant that apple picking would be pushed up earlier in the year, as orchards including Navarino are opening for U-Pick this week, much earlier than the usual late August schedule.
"People don't start thinking about fall crops until after labor day," Sicignano says. "Everybody is still thinking about the beach in late august and we're going to be ready get all of these apples off the tree by then."