Apple orchards report on this year’s yields 

  • Norway Hill Orchard is devoid of apples for the second straight season. STAFF PHOTO BY DELANEY BEAUDOIN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 3:28PM

Apple picking is one of the most quintessential New England fall activities, but it may be a little harder to do this year in the Monadnock region.

Wayne Colsia, who owns Paradise Farm in Lyndeborough with his wife Adrienne, said their apple orchard produced no yields this year. He suspects that’s because the apple trees went into bloom last spring it rained for more than a week straight and the bees stayed in their hives and missed pollination.

“Fortunately apple picking is only part of what we do,” Colsia said, adding that they also sell peaches, grass-fed meats, and dairy products. “ … Unfortunately, you lose all the pick-your-own people.”

A drive to Norway Hill Orchard in Hancock revealed rows of trees without any apples on the branches. Attempts to reach the owners were unsuccessful. 

Tyler Hardy, president of the New Hampshire Fruit Grower’s Association, said this problem hasn’t affected the whole state.

“I haven’t heard that a lot of people got hurt badly by this,” Hardy said.

He said the spring was wet and cold this year and a disease called apple scab, which manifests as light black or grey-brown lesions on the surface of tree leaves, buds or fruits, was one of the worst in memory. Hardy said there was also some hail and damaging storms in the area that took a toll on some orchards across the state.

Generally, most people are reporting good yields though.

“The apples are pretty good size this year with all of the rain,” Hardy said.

Hardy, who manages Brookdale Farms in Hollis Inc., said they are having a banner apple year.

He said in Hollis the apple trees can bloom ten days to two weeks ahead of other orchards in the state. This year, the trees started blooming around May 8 or 9.

“Once they are in bloom it doesn’t take long for the bees to do their job,” Hardy said.

Colsia said he suspects that the orchards at higher elevations might have been hit harder by the pollination issue than ones at lower levels. Paradise Farm is at about 1,000 feet of elevation.  

But Mary Pierce, who owns Birchwood Orchard with her husband Larry, said their orchard in Mason is at about 1,000 feet of elevation and they have plenty of apples this year.

“I think they are delicious and big sized, too,” Pierce said of the nearly 15 varieties of apples they grow on site.  

She said that may be because they have a guy who keeps bees on their property. They also have a good population of bumble bees because they promote the insects habitat by laying unwanted bails of hay across the property that make good winterizing nests.

That could have made a difference this year.

Colsia said even though he’s had two bad years of apple picking – last year due to the drought and this year because of pollination issues – he’s still hopeful that next year will be better.

“Farmers are optimists,” he said. “We have to be.”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.