September 2, 2010 at 8:47 a.m.

Apple orchard activity accelerated this autumn

Apple orchard activity accelerated this autumn
Apple orchard activity accelerated this autumn

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says it expects lots of visitors to its website featuring Minnesota Grown crop information due to this year's oddly-timed apple season and confusion over the best places for consumers to find a timely crop.

The Minnesota Apple Growers Association is estimating early harvests for a number of popular fall apples, due to the very warm weather recently and a warm spring. The association reports in a news release that the date for peak-of-perfection honeycrisp apples is anywhere from five to 10 days ahead of usual availability. The average statewide harvest of Zestar apples was August 18 compared to August 30 in 2009.

Rick Kluzak, of Wild Fruits Farm outside of Taylors Falls, says, "If there is one message for consumers looking for Minnesota apples this year it is call ahead and get out early." Wild Fruits is west of Taylors Falls, on Teal Avenue, north of Hwy. #95.

The Ag Dept. adds that the 2009 harvest included few fall weekends that didn't have rain, so picking opportunities at pick-your-own orchards were reduced. Growers who rely on U-pick strategy are really counting on this fall's harvest, the agriculture experts report.

The Chisago County area features many orchards that are usually busy with people who enjoy a day of getting apples and being outdoors.

~ There's Pleasant Valley Orchard, south of Center City, on County Road 26, which also carries baked goods and other items.

~ Sunrise River Apple Farm on the east edge of Wyoming, right on County Road #22.

~ Wisp-o-Willow is west of Wyoming, stay on #22 and turn north onto county road 75. It's about midway between Stacy and Wyoming, west of the freeway.

~ WEI, the Women's Environmental Institute, outside of Almelund, is a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm and has an orchard.

The best resource if you are heading out soon in search of fresh healthy local apples, is the www.minnesotagrown.com website with a full directory and maps.

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