MANSFIELD, Ohio — It’s apple picking time in Ohio and surrounding states, and for area producers, what a time it’s been.
A record-breaking warm summer has generally led to a good crop, with harvest season anywhere from four to 10 days early across the state.
Apple production for Ohio is forecast at 2.6 million bushels this year, just under last year’s 2.75 million bushels, said Bill Dodd, president of Ohio Fruit Growers Association.
“That’s going to be two pretty good size crops back to back,” he said.
Growers say the heat has caused the fruit to mature earlier than usual, but for the most part, they’ve been able to keep up, thanks to a dry summer.
“It makes it hard to keep up, but we haven’t had a whole lot of rain, we’ve been able to get out and do a lot of picking,” said Marion Bauman, whose family owns Scenic Ridge Fruit Farm of Jeromesville, and Bauman Orchards of Rittman.
The same good fate was reported in New York, the nation’s second largest apple producer, behind Washington. Growers there have been harvesting since mid-August, about 10 to 14 days earlier than usual.
New York expects to harvest 27 million bushels, a decrease from last year’s record 33 million bushels, but more than enough to maintain its high ranking.
One problem growers in both states reported was some early frost, after trees went into early bloom, followed by colder temperatures and freezes. But damage was not widespread, and most of the crop turned out well.
Barbara Joudrey and her husband, Russell, own two orchards in Ohio — one in Mansfield and the other in Fredericktown. Both are part of Apple Hill Orchards and experienced a good growing season, with a steady flow of customers, especially through the pick-your-own option.
The Joudreys have many regulars who return each year, because they enjoy the experience of selecting and harvesting their own fruit.
“It’s fresher and they know exactly what fruit they’re getting and it’s fun,” she said. “It’s fun for families to do and it’s good for kids because they know exactly where there food comes from and how it gets to their table.”
Throughout the fall, Bauman and Joudrey — along with many other fruit growers — will hold a variety of family events at their respective farms, including hay rides and educational programs.
“The kids, I find, are really interested,” she said. “You can even engage the preschoolers and I think that’s real meaningful to them.”
She has the general picking dates for each specie of apple listed on the orchard’s website, www.applehill.biz/products.html. In all, she produces about 25 varieties of apples, on 62 acres in Mansfield, and about 120 acres in Fredericktown.
Bauman and Joudrey said they encourage customers to choose apples, partly because of the health benefits.
“There is just no question we need to eat better and learn to feed our kids better,” she said.
The Bauman operation also consists of 25 varieties of apples, 20,000 apple trees and 3,000 peach trees.
Both producers operate as family operations, with several additional employees.
And, like a lot of produce growers, both companies help close the gap between producer and consumer.
Joudrey said her best experience each year is “talking to kids and giving (them) the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be on a farm.”
She keeps goats and sheep on the orchard during harvest season that children can feed, and also conducts a honey bee demonstration. And, of course, they get to pick and taste apples, as well as apple cider.