FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. - An apple a day might be good for your health, but if you want to pick your own, you might want to hasten your way to your local orchard.
Many orchards in the region were affected by extreme weather conditions this spring. “Across the boards from Michigan to the East Coast, apple producers lost a good 37 percent of their crops this season,” said Irv Silverman, owner and operator at Silverman’s Farm in Easton, Conn. That, he said, not only means higher apple prices this during the autumn picking season, but the likelihood of a truncated picking season.
“People think the problem was the late April frost,” Silverman said. But the real culprit, he said, was in a spate of tropical-like weather that blanketed the region during mid-March, when temperatures soared to the mid-80s. The weather, in effect, tricked the spring growth into blossoming too early.
Then came the late-April frost, when temperatures in the region dipped below 30 degrees.
Most of Silverman’s apples were protected from the plummeting temperatures, as the crop is located on a small hill that isolated the delicate blossoms. A slight difference of just one degree separated Silverman’s apples from an unproductive fate. “We’re at 80 percent of apple output,” said Silverman. His peaches were all but wiped out, but, he said, the peach harvest season ended earlier this summer.
Some orchards did not fare as well. Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel, Conn. lost almost 90 percent of its apple crop, according to a statement on its website.
Still, Silverman said, orchard owners “have a thing or two up their sleeve.” They've been known, he said, to re-invent the wheel when the unforeseen happens. Hayrides, corn mazes and the sale of outrageously shaped or impossibly massive gourds can attract crowds as well, he said.
Silverman hopes his crops cooperate with the demand. The apple season, he said, is “a good week-and-a-half ahead this season,” due to the warm spring. At this rate, he said, the season could be over by Columbus Day weekend.
Here are some local farms for apple-picking, hay-riding and other autumnal activities:
Blue Jay Orchards, Bethel.
Warrups Farm, Redding.
Silverman’s Farm, Easton.
March Farm, Bethlehem.
Beardsly Cider Mill & Orchard, Shelton.
Bishop’s Orchard, Guilford.