By Sally Voth firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Shenandoah Valley orchardists are enjoying a bumper apple crop.
Woodbine Farms' four orchards in Shenandoah and Frederick counties are expecting a 50 percent improvement from last year's harvest, said Greta Brumback Liskey, who is the sixth generation of her family to work at the orchards.
"Total, they're predicting around 225,000 bushels this year," she said.
In 2011, about 150,000 bushels were picked at the orchards, Liskey said at her family's 53-acre Lebanon Church orchard.
"We had plenty of rain, so the trees weren't stressed, and that really put the size on the apples," she said. "They're beautiful."
The apple harvest started at the beginning of the month, and likely will be done by the middle to end of October, barring any hurricanes, according to Liskey.
Honey crisp, greening and gala apples have been picked, as well as some early summer varieties, she said, and golden delicious and empire apples are being picked this week by 22 seasonal workers. The family farm is currently growing 25 varieties of apples.
Many of the apples are sold wholesale to farm markets, while others go for processing at Bowman Andros Apple Products in Mt. Jackson, Peterson Farms in Michigan and Gerber.
"It's different from year to year, [but] Gerber's a pretty constant," Liskey said.
Eddie Richard, manager of Richards Fruit Market in Middletown, was effusive about this year's harvest to date.
"We're not quite half-way, and the crop is beautiful -- size and quality and quantity are excellent," he said Wednesday.
The roughly 50-acre orchard grows a variety of apples, including red and golden delicious, York, Stayman, Nittany and Granny Smith.
"It's just a combination of being at the right time," Richard said. "My crop is full. The quality is excellent. It's all come together. It's exciting. It feels like it's a once in a lifetime, hit the jackpot kind of feeling."
That being said, the orchardists are still at the whim of Mother Nature.
"What we've harvested so far is wonderful," Richard said. "We still have to get through October's harvest. There's lots of crazy things that can happen with the weather to make things get messed up at the last second. But, anticipation is good."