Millennial Instagrammers looking for autumnal apple picking pics can rest easy. Maine is faring better than many other states when it comes to apple harvest this year, but labor shortages mean that the crisp fall fruit might cost a little extra.
The industry was facing a severe labor shortage even before the pandemic that has only been exacerbated in the past two years, the U.S. Apple Association, a trade group for the apple industry, reported in its Apple Outlook Report in August 2021.
On top of that, adverse environmental conditions have affected apple crops across the country. Late spring heavy frosts have caused apple shortages in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Other parts of the country, including Massachusetts and New York, struggled with insect infestations and disease this growing season.
Some places have even canceled their pick-your-own apple activities due to crop shortages, according to Business Insider.
Luckily, Maine’s apple crop emerged relatively unscathed.
“The apple crop in Maine was not affected by any spring frost,” said Renae Moran, professor of pomology at the University of Maine. “The early dry spell has also done no harm either, so growers have an abundance of apples this fall.”
Moran said that, unlike in other states, most orchards in Maine are still open for pick-your-own experiences and farmstand sales.
In fact, some orchards are saying they’ve had some of the best crops they’ve ever seen. Chris and Jodi Hollingsworth, owners of Morrison Hill Orchard, said that though their apples are a little smaller this year, they have had a bumper crop, thanks in particular to the rains in July.
Jonathan Kenerson at Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, said that they have “one of the best apple crops we’ve ever seen this year.”
“The McIntosh in particular are large and abundant and will be available for picking until late October,” Kenerson said.
Finding labor has also been easier for Maine orchards than it has been elsewhere, The Hollingsworths said that, since they are a family orchard, they have enough labor through family members to cover their pick-your-own operations, but they opened a cidery this year and have trouble finding expert help for that, and so they are only able to operate it on the weekends when help is available.
Kenerson said that while his orchard was worried about labor shortages, it was able to find plenty of people who were eager to work at Treworgy Family Orchards this season. Obtaining products like pizza boxes, apple bags and donut making supplies has been much more difficult due to pandemic-related supply chain issues. However, apple prices will increase at Treworgy Family Orchards to keep up with wage raises for staff.
The slight price bump shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this fresh fall delicacy, though. Moran said that Mainers should get out and take advantage of the apple season as soon as possible.
“It should be a great weekend to visit an apple orchard because the selection of varieties is at its best,” Moran said.