After an abysmal apple-picking season across Western Massachusetts last year, local orchards have rebounded nicely this year.
In 2012, an unusually warm winter led to the trees blooming in April, which is much too early for this region. Then, much of the crop was lost after a late-season frost occurred.
Many places, such as Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, were forced to cancel the popular "pick-your-own" apples last fall.
"Last year we had about a quarter of a crop," said Thomas G. Clark, president of Clarkdale Fruit Farms. "This year we probably got more than a normal crop. We probably got a crop and a half."
This past spring, temperatures stayed closer to normal early in the season, and the benefits of that are now being seen by this fall's harvest.
"This location right here, which are 100-year-old Macintosh trees, there was no crop at all last year. First time in my memory," said Clark. "Now, as you can see, because we had a normal winter, blooms a little later, good growing conditions, plenty of moisture, and plenty of sunlight, we have a full crop of apples."
Plenty of rain this past summer kept the trees healthy for the apples to grow. At this time of year, cool nights in the 30s and days near 70 degrees are ideal conditions to get colorful Macintosh apples and their relatives like the Cortland and Empire.
Not only does that mean plentiful trees for Western Massachusetts residents to pick from this fall, a great season allows Clarkdale to start pressing their freshly made cider, and keep it coming through the winter.
"We usually run into February, but we closed up in December [last year] because it was such a short crop," said Ben Clark, co-owner of Clarkdale Fruit Farms and the son of Thomas Clark. "This year we anticipate at least being open until February. It will be great for business, and people are really happy because we'll have cider and apples longer into the season."
Clarkdale Fruit Farms features about 25 acres of apple trees. Pick-your-own apples are available daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Their seasonal produce can also be found on Saturdays at the Greenfield Farmers' Market.
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