Maine’s apple producers were smiling as they picked their crops this week despite all this summer’s rain.
Most producers are reporting a bountiful year with large, plump apples full of flavor.
“I don’t know anyone in agriculture that didn’t have problems this year with all the rain,” John Olsen of Maine-ly Apples in Dixmont said Thursday.
But Olsen’s apples “have taken their sweet time ripening,” he said. “The flavor is fine.”
Surprisingly, Olsen’s late-variety apples are now craving rain.
Olsen, who has 1,620 trees and 36 varieties of apples, said, “It certainly was a weird weather year.”
The past two weeks of warm days and cool nights are exactly what ripening apples crave, Norma Littlefield at Littlefield Orchards in Burnham said Thursday.
“Cold nights and warm days make the red in the apple,” Littlefield said. “We look for this weather because it polishes off the crop.”
Jason Davis at Cayford Orchard in Skowhegan said he has never had such a beautiful crop. “It is awesome,” he said. The sun this week has put the color on the 1,400 trees that he harvests on his sixth-generation family farm. “We’ve already been doing pick-your-own for a week,” he said.
“All that rain really created apples way above normal size,” Ed Buzanoski of Rowe’s House of Apples in Newport said this week. “But we didn’t have enough sun. The last few weeks helped with the color, though.”
Buzanoski harvests 72 acres of apples and his son, Ian, is just beginning to harvest 5 acres of 45 varieties of heirloom apples. Cider making began this week as well.
Lisa Scott at County Fair Farm in Jefferson said her apples “look wonderful.” So good, in fact, that County Fair is holding an apple festival this Sunday.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, along with FEDCO seeds and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, will host Great Apple Day at MOFGA’s education center in Unity from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4.
The event includes educational workshops and talks on fruit tree pruning, cooking, Maine’s apple history, wine and cider making, and organic tree care. There also will be rare and heirloom apples on display as well as a number of vendors offering local and organic apples, apple products, cheeses and other local handmade products. Cider pressing will be held all day.
“Apple orchards are an integral part of the local economy and now more than ever we need support,” Olsen said. He encouraged Mainers to hit the orchards this weekend, either to pick their own apples or purchase the many products offered at fruit stands.
To check for a local orchard or pick-your-own operation, go to www.getrealmaine.com.