The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 16, 2013

It's a Honey(crisp) of a year for apple harvest

Harvest far better than last year's ice, storm damaged crop

Even the names can make your mouth water: Sweet Tango, Honeycrisp, Sweet 16.

With a near perfect growing season behind them, area apple orchards are seeing a bountiful harvest.

"Things are looking very good. We have a very large crop this year," said Larry Harbo of Welsh Heritage Farm near Lake Crystal.

At A-Peeling Acres Orchard at New Ulm, Dianne Rodenberg was busy helping harvest trees heavy with produce.

"Right now it's McIntosh, the Beacon and William's Pride have come and gone. The Zestars are ready and we're getting into the Honeycrisps," she said. "The Sweet Sixteens and Haralsons should be ready in a week or two."

This season's abundance is a turnaround from last year when a very warm March, followed by a hard frost in April, killed off apple blossoms. The tough start was followed by widespread hail storms that damaged apples and slashed the harvest.

Minnesota is home to 150 apple growers who generate some 16 million pounds of fruit and generate $12.6 million.

There was a slow start to the growing season, with cool wet weather putting the bloom off by two weeks, to late May, but warm weather and good rainfall over the summer was perfect for the apple crop, Harbo said.

A new favorite at Welsh Heritage is the Sweet Tango, a newer variety developed by the University of Minnesota.

"The Sweet Tango, Honeycrip and Zestar are the three stars of the U of M," Harbo said.

Rodenberg said the work done at the university over the years has given a big boost to apple growers. "The U of M does a fabulous job with their fruit development."

Her family's orchard was started in 1985 and is owned by her mother-in-law, Patricia Rodenberg, with Dianne's husband, John, and son, David, managing the 700-tree orchard.

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