Slimmer pickings in store for Wisconsin apple loversOrchard owner Jim Erickson knows his fruit to its core. For more than 50 years he has worked his land in Bayfield and its 3,000 trees.
By: Jacob Kittilstad, Fox 21 News
BAYFIELD — Orchard owner Jim Erickson knows his fruit to its core. For more than 50 years he has worked his land in Bayfield and its 3,000 trees.
“I’ve been playing with apples all my life,” said Erickson, 83.
But he says success isn’t blossoming this season.
“We had a very mild winter, and when I was pruning these apple trees I knew we were going to be in trouble,” Erickson said.
Late spring frosts wreaked havoc on Erickson’s developing apples, and for the few that survived on the branch, their time there may soon be up.
Workers are already picking the Cortland apples. Erickson said that is about two weeks earlier than usual. There won’t be as many this season compared to the last, he said.
“They were producing all the way between 15 and 20 bushels a tree. This year I’ll be lucky if I get four or five,” Erickson said.
The Wisconsin Apple Grower’s Association is urging hobby fruit-pickers to check with their local orchards so no one misses this quickly ripening harvest.
“There’s going to be a little shortage this year because they’ve been having the same problems all across the state,” Erickson said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports hail, moisture and fungus have killed 20 percent of Wisconsin’s apple crops.
These figures, however, should not concern fans of the famous Bayfield Apple Festival, Erickson said.
“There’s going to be plenty of apples here for the festival, I can tell you that,” Erickson said.
Although the weather has taken a bite out of Erickson’s produce, many Bayfield growers are still bringing in full harvests.
“I happen to be not one of them; I wish I was,” Erickson said with a laugh.
Bayfield farmers say the region’s climate is usually better regulated by Lake Superior. This is the only the second time in 35 years of farming that Erickson says he has experienced a debilitating frost.