The Northeast is emerging from a long winter with conditions favorable to producing a strong start for the new apple season.
“We had an overall good season with temperatures slightly above average and snow fall within the normal range of 70” to 75”. There was consistently cold weather in January and February but no winter injury caused by severe swings in temperature,” said Brett Baker, corporate vice-president and co-owner of United Apple Sales and a third-generation apple grower in western New York.
Right: Brett Baker
“However, on April 22, we had 3” of snow covering cherry blossoms. Apples were still in the tight cluster stage without blossoms at the time and not affected,” said Baker.
Justin Whipple, United Apple’s procurement and operations manager, said they are now in the orchards assessing soil conditions and possible damage from April frost events. “With warm weather arriving, we are already seeing a significant increase in bee activity. By late May, the crop will set and we will have the drop in mid-June, when we will have an initial indication of potential volume and preliminary harvest schedule,” said Whipple.
By mid-June, United Apple will have an initial indication of potential volume and preliminary harvest schedule for the 2021 apple crop.
United Apple anticipates traditional eastern varieties of MacIntosh and Cortland as well as mainline varietals of Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp and Red Delicious will be in good supply. United’s club varieties – EverCrisp, RubyFrost and SnapDragon will see a larger volume as young trees are maturing and producing more fruit.
Baker indicated that United’s eastern cherry orchards are also benefiting from the strong spring bloom and are on their way to producing a great start for its program featuring: Cavalier, Hartland, Lapins, Royalton, Sam’s and Ulsters.
Baker stated the traditional supply model, where apple growers and packers inform retailers of the availability schedule, volume of fruit and breaks on size and fruit color, has been changing. The marketplace has become more complex as the relationship between retailers and consumers is taking on a new dimension. A good example of consumers impacting retail decisions was seen during the pandemic as customers shied away from bulk/individual apple sales and opted for packaged product. “Retailer input can impact how we work with growers to review the state of their orchards and adjust orchard management,” noted Baker.
Right: Justin Whipple
Baked indicated the United team integrates input from retail partners and incorporates market updates to establish a productive dialog with their grower group. “This gives us opportunities to manage elements within our control. We can fine tune production with thinning of trees on certain varieties to affect the sizing of fruit and generate packs best suited for programs,” he says.