PERU — It’s apple harvest time in the Champlain Valley.
Bill Everett, who owns Everett Orchards in the Town of Peru with his brother, Tom, and their father, David, said they started to harvest in early September.
Early on, they picked the Paula Red and Ginger Gold varieties.
“We are now concentrating on McIntosh,” he said Wednesday. “We (also) started to pick Honeycrisp today.”
Others to follow
Those will be followed by other varieties such as Cortland and Macoun.
The season started well, as conditions were fairly dry before Memorial Day. Then it rained almost continually into June, which makes it hard to control diseases.
“Apple scab was a tough one to keep up with,” Everett said.
Once the steady rains subsided, the growing season has been fairly normal, he said, and the fruit grew at a good pace. Those early issues may still result in a slightly lower yield this year, he said.
There was plenty of sun the first week of harvest, but the nights weren’t cool enough. The weather this week has been great, he said, with sunny days and temperatures in the low- to mid-40s, which helps develop a deep red color.
Ideally, there will be little rain through the end of harvest, which Everett expects to come in early to mid-October.
Participated in trials
Everett Orchards has participated in Cornell Cooperative Extension field trials since 2002. They have studied the results of four different growing systems to calculate which offers the best return on investment.
This year, the study has also included use of mechanized sidewall shearing to reduce the number of flowers allowed to grow to fruit on each tree. It also exposes more fruit to sunlight, Everett said.
Everett said they have a crew of 60 Jamaican laborers as well as two truck drivers working to harvest the crop. Some of them were spot picking the ripest Honeycrisp apples at the field trial location on Wednesday.
Some of the trees were supported by a slender spindle system, which allows for less tree and more fruit. He said it is very popular in Europe, but more expensive because of the posts and wires needed.
“We want to grow fruit, not trees,” Everett said.
Nearby were rows in a central-leader tree system for yield comparisons. Those trees are pruned to a Christmas-tree shape, with about 60 percent of the fruit on lower branches.
Some of the harvest is already available at the Everett Orchards farm market and cidery located at 1945 Military Turnpike near the intersection with Route 374. Debbie Everett is co-owner and co-manager with Julie Everett, and said the market has been very busy.
“Everybody is clamoring for apples this time of year,” she said as a steady stream of customers moved through the store.
Opened in 2002
They opened the market in 2002 at the former Pytlack Orchards location. The store carries a wide variety of apples, which can be shipped to any state except California and Arizona.
Varieties include McIntosh, Paula Red, Gingergold, Gala, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Empire, Macoun, Delicious and Wealthy. Tomatoes, corn and winter squash are also available.
The store also offers several types of baked goods and candy.
“One of our most popular products is apple cider donuts,” Everett said.
They also offer lunch including Applewood Pulled Pork sandwiches, Applewood Turkey sandwiches and homemade soups.
Locally made foods such as cheese from D and D Meats in Sciota are offered, as well as locally produced jams, jellies, honey and maple products. In addition, there is a selection of gift wares.
Everett said what really sets their market apart is the variety of hard cider produced right on site. They grow a number of European cider apples at the orchard, and also use McIntosh.
Cider production starts in November and bottling usually starts in the spring.
“We are still bottling from last year’s crop,” she said.
Tasting room included
The market has a tasting room so customers can try before they buy.
“We really do encourage them to try it so they know what it tastes like and will enjoy it when they get it home,” Everett said.
They have about 15 employees at the store. It is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The orchard covers about 200 acres.
According to the Everett Orchards website, the present owners are the sixth generation of Everetts to work the land.
Capt. Edward Everett came to the area in 1776 after he received a 150-acre tract for some surveying he did nearby in 1775. His son, David Allen Everett, bought the property where the farm still exists.
It originally housed a dairy farm as well as apple trees. David turned the farm over to his son, Harvey.
Harvey and his son, William, worked the farm and eventually sold it to Earl. It was Earl and his son, David, who expanded the orchard.
Dairy herd sold
They sold the dairy herd in 1960 and concentrated on apples. That led them to form Champlain Valley Apple Storage with two other growers.
Bill and Tom joined the business in 1973 and 1984, respectively, and continue in its day-to-day operation.
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