Within the decrease part of an previous barn at Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Minimizechogue, apple farmers retailer crates overflowing with apples in a cooler. On a fall morning final week, there have been an estimated 1,100 bushels of apples within the cooler.
Usually presently of yr, apple farmers say there is perhaps 300 bushels in chilly storage. However this fall was not like these of earlier years, with six weekends in a row of rain that stored the regular stream of apple pickers away from the Minimizechogue farm and different North Fork farms promoting their apples.
“There’s a huge surplus of apples this yr,” mentioned Tom Wickham, as he and a customer toured the farm in Mr. Wickham’s pickup truck. “The rains stored the apple pickers away, so we have now lots now in chilly storage.”
Whereas he mentioned he’s not sure but of the monetary fallout for apple farmers of the wet weekends, he mentioned it’s doable this yr the farm — which raises two dozen sorts of apples, from Mutsu to Empire to the crisp and juicy Rubyfrost — may even see a loss. However Mr. Wickham’s optimism on his historic farm runs deep: the approaching weekend was predicted to be traditional fall climate, which brings out the apple pickers, typically by the busload.
“We can have weekend,” Mr. Wickham mentioned.
Throughout New York State’s apple nation, apple farmers have been hit onerous by the wet weekends, in line with a current story in The New York Occasions that centered on orchards within the Hudson River Valley. Some growers mentioned weekend rains, one after one other from September into October, value them half of their autumn revenue.
One Hudson Valley apple grower advised The New York Occasions, “I’ve been farming since 1972, and that is the roughest fall I’ve ever seen.”
The Wickhams have been farming in Minimizechogue significantly longer. A part of the household’s present farm dates to the mid-1850s; a earlier line of Wickhams arrived in Minimizechogue on a distinct tract of land in 1699.
Starting within the late Thirties, and persevering with into the Forties and Fifties, the household started planting apple orchards, partially as a result of potato farming on Lengthy Island was starting to vanish as suburbanization unfold east. The household wished new crops that will assist them maintain the farm energetic and enterprise at their Primary Street farm stand busy. As well as, New York State, via Cornell College, had an energetic apple analysis program that impressed new varieties, just like the Empire — named after the Empire State — that farmers might then supply to the general public.
This previous weekend, lots of the apple varieties grown on the Wickham farm have been on show within the farm stand, together with pies and donuts. By Saturday morning, guests started to reach with the sunny promise of extra apple pickers to come back. For his half, Mr. Wickham mans a tractor that pulls pickers in a wagon to orchards on the east aspect of the farm ripe with apples.
Basically, apple season comes at two totally different instances on the Wickham farm: first, from late August into September; then from October — which is prime selecting time — to the tip of the season. Ten or 12 varieties are picked within the early season; one other 10-12 in October.
Some growers quoted in The New York Occasions story mentioned they might attempt to prolong the season into December in hopes of constructing up for fall losses. The Wickham farm stand historically closes earlier than Christmas.
Traditionally, the farm’s apples are offered on the stand or by the U-pick crowd. That portion of the enterprise has dropped off sharply lately as a result of worsening site visitors situations, with main chokepoints east of Minimizechogue.
“Folks simply can’t get east due to the site visitors,” Mr. Wickham mentioned.
Then the September-October weekend rains hit, making issues worse. “It’s been a dramatic drop-off,” he mentioned. “The rain actually harm us.”
As Mr. Wickham toured the orchards with a customer, he identified that a number of the later varieties — resembling Fuji and Rubyfrost — are nonetheless on the timber ready on pickers to reach.
Along with his eye on the excess, Mr. Wickham started on the lookout for alternate markets for his apple crop. A significant purchaser this fall has been the Jericho Cider Mill in Nassau County. Sooner or later final week, Mr. Wickham drove one of many farm’s flatbed vehicles full of crates of barrels to the mill.
One other approach of promoting the excess is to transform the apples to cider. On the day a customer toured the farm, staff in one other barn have been processing apples and filling jugs with cider. The cider press on the farm dates to about 1907 and stays in use each fall.
Within the decrease part of the large barn, the place potatoes have been as soon as saved, Mr. Wickham confirmed the customer the cooler, the place 1,100 bushels of apples are in chilly storage in giant picket crates. He mentioned he hoped a lot of them might be offered within the spring when the stand reopens.
Then his telephone pinged. He was wished on the stand to drive a gaggle of pickers behind the tractor who had arrived to benefit from the sunny day.