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

(Continued)

"We're a mom and pop operation. We pick 'em all, bag 'em all and sell them out of our apple barn," she said.

The Welsh Heritage orchards, with 1,500 trees, were started 33 years ago and the operation is in the midst of a major replanting.

"We're in the process of replanting the orchard to new trellis systems," Harbo said. "The apples are all on a trellis, they're planted three feet apart and are eight-feet tall and three wires support them," Harbo said. The closer plantings means about 50 of the old, large trees are taken out and replaced with 150 of the more compact trees.

The trellis system makes it easier to spray and manage the trees and provides a little more sun and air circulation. But the big payoff comes this time of year, Harbo said.

"The big thing in this business is getting the apples picked and it's easier with a trellis. There's more pruning and work when you start but they're easier to pick. It's the way the apple business is moving."

Inside the Welsh store on Highway 60, Harbo's wife, Libby, has been busy peeling apples and baking pies. In a nearby building, their son, Tim, has been making hard cider, a fairly new offering at the farm.

"Pressing apple cider is dictated by the number of varieties available. You need five or six different apples to make a good cider blend," Harbo said.

Rodenberg said most customers have a favorite apple they wait for, be it a Red Baron, Wealthy or Honeycrisp. "But people try new ones and they take off. A lot of people really love Sweet 16, it has crunch to it and it's sweeter."

For her, though, the old Minnesota standard — the Haralson — is hard to beat.

"The Legislature made the Honeycrisp the official Minnesota apple, but the Haralson is the unofficial one."

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