The effects of an early apple crop

PERU - If you've been on the hunt for apples this summer, you may have noticed many of your favorite orchards and roadside stands have had crops out a little earlier this year. However, that's not always a good thing, said Bob Rulfs.

Rulfs, a local apple producer and owner of Rulfs Orchard, said this year's apple crop has been approximately 10 days early this year. Though that sounds optimal for consumers looking to pick up their favorite variety of apples, it can mean a shorter buying season, too.

"Everything this year is 10 days early - apples, strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn," said Rulfs.

The reason? According to the New York Apple Association, the consensus of state apple growers has been the crop got off to perhaps its fastest start in history last spring with record warm April temperatures. The growing season was accelerated even more by a hot, sunny summer, experts say.

"We had a few warm days in February, March, April. That is really a death nail on [apple producers] because on a warm day, they start growing," said Rulfs. "And, if you get a day that's in the 60s or 70s and you get a night that's in the 20s, you're in trouble."

When the warmer weather hit earlier this year, Rulfs said he, like many farmers, was worried about how his crops would be affected.

"Everybody would come by the stand and remark about how beautiful the weather was, but they don't know what [apple producers] are going through," said Rulfs. "If all my crops had failed, and they could have because a couple degrees can make a difference, I'd be out on the road right now. We live from year to year in this business."

However, the roughly 10-day difference hasn't been that bad for business, Rulfs admitted. Though the shift in the growing season has resulted in fewer apples and a slight shift in the picking schedules, it's not all bad, he said.

"We have less apples on the trees, but we have bigger apples," he said, noting MacIntosh apples were beginning to be picked the last week of August. "We normally start picking Macs after Labor Day ... It all adds up."

Growers have predicted a crop size of approximately 27 million bushels this year, which is expected to easily keep New York ranked second in apple production nationwide, behind the state of Washington.

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