HOLLIS, N.H. — Autumn has arrived bringing apple season to New Hampshire. However, this year’s apple season will look different than it has in past years due to weather challenges faced by growers this year.
In February a bitter cold snap hit New Hampshire, and most of New England, with temperatures reaching as low as -20 degrees in some places. In mid-May an abnormally cold night saw temperatures dip into the 20s. Both events had the effect of killing buds on fruit trees limiting growth throughout the year. This greatly affected stone fruits like cherries, peaches, and plums. Also, in the summer some orchards in the state saw flooding which again damaged trees and affected production. In mid-August New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture Shawn Jasper reported that nearly 75% of New Hampshire’s apple crop was lost this year.
Due to these challenges the outcome of the apple growing season is highly variable. Yield outcomes at orchards were different depending on location, topography, conditions experienced, and fruit variety. Some places sadly saw a total loss or near total loss due to the conditions. Apple Annie in Brentwood was one of these orchards as owner Laurie Loosigian reported, “Unfortunately we have lost our entire apple crop this year due to the May 18th frost. This is devastating for us particularly following the drought last year that put us in the hole.”
Some growers have seen a partial loss but are still able to harvest an apple crop. Kris and Becky McLeod of McLeod Orchards in Milford shared, “Our farm was affected by the frost in May but fortunately we do have a crop to pick this year…Some of our blocks fared better than others based on elevation. We will be better able to assess our crop percentage when the season is over.”
Similarly, Joy Currier from Currier Orchards in Merrimack said, “We do have an apple crop this year. We estimate a 40% loss on the Honeycrisp apples… They show freeze damage in the form of russeted bands around some of the apples. Some of the Honeycrisp crop are not damaged, perhaps depending on the location of the apple on the tree. All other varieties have done well this year.” Joy wondered whether the age of trees played a role in the damage inflicted as the Honeycrisp trees at their orchard are younger than other varieties.
Other orchards were fortunate to escape the freeze damage and have harvests that are comparable to what would be seen in a normal year. “Butternut Farm was one of the lucky ones this season. The May 18th freeze event did not significantly impact our apple crop for 2023. Harvest has been going well to date and we hope it continues that way,” said Giff Burnap of Butternut Farm in Farmington. “We have a great apple crop here at McKenzie’s Farm in Milton,” shared owner Brett McKenzie. Also, Adrien Lavoie of Lavoie’s Farm in Hollis said, “I have a 100% crop. I’m one of the lucky ones with great apple picking.”
In response to the poor outcomes, some NH orchards have been shipping in fruits from neighboring states that were not affected while planning for next year. Others are relying on diversified aspects of their business such as berries, agritourism, and event hosting. Laurie Loosigian shared, “Our business has just constructed a 48-foot green house and we will look at diversifying here. We are doing some education programs and we are doing some work like cleaning the fence line, taking down dead trees, and making equipment repairs. We will take a much-needed break and assess our future growing apples.”
Despite the hardships that NH orchards have faced this year pick-your-own apples, apple products, and autumn activities are still available at orchards in the state. Check with your local orchard to see what they are offering this season. To find an orchard near you, look at the NHFGA website at https://www.nhfruitgrowers.
About the New Hampshire Fruit Growers Association:
The NH Fruit Growers Association (NHFGA) is a non-profit association made up of tree fruit farmers, commercial, and supporting members who share a passion for New Hampshire-grown apples, peaches, cherries, plums, and pears. Among the association’s approximately 30 member orchards and farms, there’s diversity in size, fruit, and farm products, but they all gladly share the hard work of taking great care to grow quality fresh fruit for their customers. Keep up with NHFGA on Facebook and Instagram (@NHFruitGrowers) for nutrition information, fun facts, recipes, and more!
–New Hampshire Fruit Growers Association