It’s been a sweet season for Virginia apples

Published 8:00 am Saturday, November 5, 2022

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Crisp fall weather means apple cider, pie and other products — and Virginia growers are supplying the market with plenty of local apples.

“It’s been a great season,” said Joe Snapp, owner of West Oaks Farm and Market.

Snapp grows 16 apple varieties that he sells wholesale, retail and U-pick. He began harvesting Ginger Gold and Honeycrisp in late summer, and this fall he’s harvesting Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and York. He said this year’s weather has been ideal for apples.

“We’ve had plenty of rainfall all summer,” said Snapp, who also chairs the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Apple Advisory Committee. “The apples are very sweet, and it’s an excellent crop.”

Donald Ayers, a fourth-generation farmer and owner of Ayers Orchard in Carroll County, echoed Snapp’s sentiments.

“It’s a crop of a lifetime,” said Ayers, who was recently featured on a VFBF Real Virginia segment about Virginia’s apple industry.

Ayers grows 33 apple varieties that he harvests from July through early December and sells wholesale and at his farm’s market in Cana. He said despite rain and wind damage from Hurricane Ian earlier this fall, his trees produced “the most apples we’ve ever had.”

He explained the record number of apples is attributed to freezing weather during the 2021 season, resulting in no crop that year for the farm. Because there wasn’t any fruit, “all the energy went to growing fruiting buds for 2022.

“Every limb of every tree of every variety has apples all the way to the trunk — if we can get them picked,” he commented.

While Virginia’s apple crop is robust, this year’s harvest is a little behind schedule. A U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service crop report published on Oct. 17 showed 78% of Virginia’s apples were harvested, down slightly from that time last year. Ayers attributes some of this to labor shortages.

“We’re down to maybe 25% of a crop left to harvest for late apples,” he noted. “We’ve got all the early apples done in the warehouse, but the labor issue is getting to be the biggest problem — finding people to pick them.”

However, despite harvest delays, Ayers said “It’s the best year we ever had,” and apples are “selling the best they’ve ever sold.

“People always ask for the Pink Ladies,” he added. “They’re the apple that keeps the longest throughout the season. We also have Fujis, Arkansas Black and York.”