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Farmers have early, compressed harvest

    TRI-COUNTY AREA (Sept. 18, 2012)—The 2012 harvest is in full swing and crops are being picked an average of two weeks earlier than usual.
    The weather, including last winter’s late frost and drought-like summer, has impacted all farmers. Another concern is that it will also be a short harvest. According to New York Wine and Grape Foundation Director Jim Trezise, the grape harvest is between two and three weeks early.
    Growers have had a mostly dry and warm summer, but as Trezise explained, no drought damage. He added “we did not lose very much.” However, grape growers have a few more weeks before completing the harvest. Trezise added the problem with a harvest like this, is that it’s compressed. He said this has the benefit of decreasing the chance of grapes being killed by frost. However, it also means more grapes coming in to be pressed at the same time.
    “It’s a logistical challenge,” said Trezise.
    Wine and juice grapes at Fulkerson Winery are at least one full week ahead of schedule. Brittany Morris, advertising director, said some varieties are two and a half to three weeks early. She said Fulkerson started harvesting by the second week in August. She added at this point mainly the viniferas are still hanging on the vines, like Riesling and Cabernets.
    As the weather caused the early harvest, Morris said they are waiting to see what the end of the season brings as well. She explained the yield is on par with last year, but bad weather at the end of the season could be a problem. Fulkerson is also looking to do an ice wine this year. Morris said they will of course have to wait and see if the grapes are still on the vine for the needed frost.
    Apple Barrel Orchards in Penn Yan will have a shortened harvest season this year. Orchard owner Roxanne Wager said this is because of the freeze that hit the area earlier in the spring as the apples were beginning to bud. “It was the freeze at the end of April,” Wager said. “The last weekend in April we were two nights with a freeze, so that damaged our buds. We had a beautiful bloom, and then it hit.”  Wager said the orchard will have sales at the store for as long as they have apples. She said there is a smaller apple crop yield statewide, and that people from around the state have been calling about U-pick operations. Wager said since the apples are not ripening at a normal rate this year, all they can do is keep testing them until an orchard can be opened for U-pick.
    “Typically we have U-pick and our own harvest until Columbus Day or beyond,” Wager said. “This year we will be done probably the last weekend in September. It’s hard to estimate this year.”
    Wager also said that if somebody calls about a certain type of apple, they tell them to come today, because tomorrow might be a different story with the increase in apple demand. Wager said she has never gone through a situation like this before at the orchard. She said the orchard has had to raise prices in order to cover themselves for the shortened harvest season.
    “We are farmers and we have to deal with mother nature,” Wager said “It’s a gamble every year. Anybody in farming is in the same boat.”
    Rick Reisinger, owner of Reisinger Apple Orchards in Watkins Glen, said the apple picking season is ahead by 10 days and added it will definitely be shorter. He said the harvest usually ends by Columbus Day, which is Monday, Oct. 8 this year. “We’ll be lucky to make it to Columbus Day,” said Reisinger. Part of the reason is the weather. Reisinger said the total crop is about one-third less of what it normally would be due to the drought-like conditions. The other reason the harvest will be shorter is because of the demand. He explained Pennsylvania growers were hit harder by the drought conditions this year so he is seeing more customers from that area.
    “There’s more demand. More than ever,” said Reisinger. Cortland apples joined the list of pickable fruit this past Saturday, Sept. 13. Reisinger’s was busy despite the smaller crop. Reisinger is also offering early pumpkins for sale, which by this past weekend were clearly ready.






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