Virginia expecting very good apple crop

By Katie Demeria

STEPHENS CITY — The apple season has officially arrived, and Virginia farmers are expecting a very good crop.

But while the size of the crop is expected to be solid, Dudley Rinker said a dry spell has prevented the apples from becoming too large in this area.

“It’s a good crop, but from what I gather the size is off a little because of the dry weather. In this area the rain seemed to split around us,” Rinker said. “When they say it’s raining in Stephens City, well Stephens City is two miles that way, and it boiled up between here and there.”

Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Mark Sutphin said that in 2013 Virginia had a large crop at around 195 million pounds or 4.6 million bushels. The 2014 estimate is around 180 million pounds, or 4.3 million bushels.

“It’s slightly down from 2013, but that was a very significant crop, so it’s still a fairly large crop for 2014,” Sutphin said. “And most apple growers are happy with what they’re seeing.”

Rinker said he expects his pick-your-own apples business to draw in more customers around the end of September until Columbus Day, which is usually when it starts slowing down.

This upcoming weekend is likely to be strong for him, he said, as the forecast predicts nice weather.

But while Virginia growers are happy with their crop, Sutphin said, so are growers around the country. Virginia is the sixth largest apple-growing state.

Washington might have a record-breaking crop this year. And while Michigan and New York may be down slightly from 2013, their 2013 crop was very large because their 2012 crop was off due to freezing.

“Nationwide we’re expecting a very large crop, and I think due to that we are seeing, and expect to see, some lower prices,” Sutphin said.

High crops in other parts of the country could lower the prices here, just as in 2012 when the crop failed in New York, Virginia had a great year.

“That was a year to remember,” Rinker said of 2012.

Apple growers in the valley depend on a variety of models, Sutphin pointed out. Many of the commercial growers have retail sides, such as pick-your-own apples, but there are also plenty of commercial apple growers without that aspect to their business.

“There are plenty of examples of both here in the valley,” he said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com