After talking with several Londonderry orchard owners and managers, there is only one conclusion to reach – the upcoming and almost upon us apple season is expected to be outstanding.
The weather between May and the present hasn’t been particularly kind to strawberry, blueberry and vegetable growers but it has been great for the apple crop. However, as Sunnycrest Farms’ Dan Hicks pointed out, “That is why we diversify.”
Farms and orchards can’t risk depending on a single product because each fruit and vegetable reacts differently to the weather. Strawberry season was an uphill battle for those who plant and harvest and sell the berries, and the rain and cold, followed by hot weather, didn’t do the farmers any favors.
Hicks said, “The strawberry crop was a struggle. All the rain we had was a pain in the butt. Blueberries have been somewhat affected by the downpours but now seem to be coming along all right.” At Mack’s Moose Hill Orchards, Mike Cross said, “Everyone had an awful time with strawberries but the blueberries seem to be doing well. We are picking them and this weather is good.”
But Hicks noted that while they start at Sunnycrest in June with strawberries and the farm stand bakery, it is the coming apple season that looks the best. Cross said while vegetables in general, pumpkins, peppers, and tomatoes were not doing too well, squash is doing fine. The tomatoes were late getting into the ground and the same was true of the peppers. But the weather was what hampered the vegetable crops.
Ken Merrill of Oliver Merrill and Sons Farm said the weather had a greater negative impact on the vegetables than the others and they are behind or not producing at all. But like Hicks and Cross, Merrill sees his apple crop as “looking good, and we are starting early with peaches and apples, with the later varieties looking very good.”
Hicks expects his apple crop to be one of the largest in years. He said his peaches have good size and flavor and his apples are getting color and the plums look good. “Right now we are in September-like weather, and that is very favorable to the apples, giving them good color and sweetness,” he said. “I am anticipating a spectacular season with a very, very big crop for both our own picking and for the Pick Your Own.”
Cross was equally enthusiastic, noting, “The apple crop is fantastic. All the varieties have good size. The cool weather brings the color. I think our apple crop is running a little bit late, which is fine because it has put us in better weather.”
The Merrill and Sons farm stand will start after Labor Day and be open weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the weekend Pick Your Own will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “We are hoping lots of people will come and like what we have to offer,” he said.
Moose Hill opened Wednesday, Aug. 14, and Cross said the peaches and apples were ready. He said he hopes the weather holds and brings the customers out to pick. Mack’s farm stand and U-Pick hours are: Farm Market, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. U-Pick Apples and Pumpkins opens Sept. 7, with hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
“Last year was a terrible apple year but this year looks really great,” he said.
Sunnycrest opened in June and continues through November, with its farm stand open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Pick Your Own for items other than apples 7 a.m. to noon. U-pick for apples is daily from 9 a.m. to 5 pm.
Oliver Merrill & Sons Farm is located at 369 Mammoth Road, phone 622-6636. Mack’s Moose Hill Orchards is located at 230 Mammoth Road, phone 434-7619. Sunnycrest is at 59 High Range Road, phone 432-7753.