Slim pickings at apple orchards this year

Slim pickings at apple orchards this year

By Jesse Ritka. CREATED Sep 12, 2012 - UPDATED: Sep 12, 2012

FRANKLIN - Awe's Apple Orchard has been open for 40 years, but for the first time in their tasty history, you won't be able to stroll through the rows of trees in search of the perfect apple.

Paul Awe owns Awe's Apple Orchard with her husband Don and tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka the weather has not been kind to their apple trees, "We probably lost about 75% of our crop."

Orchards all over southeast Wisconsin have the same problem right now, if you call most of the apple farms in the area you will get a voicemail similar to Niemann Orchards' "We do not have pick your own due to the very, very small apple crop this year."

Schofield's Orchard in Lake Geneva only picked 16 bushels of McIntosh apples this year, on a normal year they will normally harvest 120 bushels.  Ela Orchard in Rochester even closed their apple barn this year because the apple crop was so small.

"It gets you emotionally, it does, because first of all you don't want to disappoint people and of course it is also our living so that makes a little bit less money flowing in too," says Awe.

The Franklin Orchard actually fenced off the apple trees to the public, because every single apple on their property it too valuable to them, "It's too tempting to come into the orchard and pick the apples.  Every apple is like gold to us," Awe explains.

The apple trees bloomed early this year because of the warm winter and record setting March.  But a frost in April killed almost all of Wisconsin's apple crop.  The Awe's are thankful for a small pond on their property that helped keep the overnight temperatures warm enough to save 25% of their crop.

But Awe says the drought in June and July didn't help, "You couldn't really tell until July how the apples were developing and then if you didn't water, the branches would be so dry the apples would start falling off so that part saved the orchard because we did water a lot."

Since there is slim pickings in the orchards this year, Parkway Elementary had to cancel their annual field trip out to the Awe Orchard.

Annie Tautges usually takes her junior kindergartners there to kick off the school year, "I felt really bad for the farmers as well as the children, it's a great trip, an authentic way to learn about, apples, life on the farm as well as harvest time, so it will be a loss but we do look forward to going back next year."

Just knowing that their customers will come back next year helps keep Paula positive, "Most people understand that its weather related and we have no control over that and we're really happy that we do have the crop that we have."

Many apple farms are still selling pre-picked apples, there just aren't as many to choose from.

Apple Holler in Sturtevant is allowing limited apple picking this year, but say some varieties didn't make it.  The Apple Barn Orchard and Winery in Elkhorn is hoping to allow picking the week of Apple Fest, but that would be the only time they would allow it this year.


Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka joined TODAY’S TMJ4 and Storm Team 4 in February 2011 as the “Live at Daybreak” weekend meteorologist. Growing up in Prior Lake, Minnesota, Jesse has always been fascinated by storms.