HASTINGS, Minn. - Give John Leadholm credit for keeping things in perspective during a dismal year for Minnesota apple orchards.
"Actually it was a good year to have hail," he laughs, "because our crop was so short because of the frost."
Better laughter than tears for the owner of Fischer's Croix Farm Orchards near Hastings. "No pay day this year for many of the local orchards," he says.
At Leadholm's orchard, three hail storms followed an unseasonably warm spring that pushed out early blossoms and then froze many of them off.
"There's a tree with a light load," he says, pointing to one honeycrisp tree and then another. "Here's a tree with nothing, zip."
Thanks in part to the early spring, apples at area orchards are ripening 10 days to two weeks ahead of schedule - but there are fewer of them.
Leadholm lost 70 percent of his crop to frost and hail.
Consumers should expect no deals on apples this year, with the exception of those hail-damaged fruit often sold as "utility" apples at half price.
"The apple crop is short from here all the way to the east coast," explains Leadholm. "Michigan's a big apple producing state - about 15 percent of the crop - zero cherries. New York State is 50 percent at best."
Similar issues can be seen in the orchard across the river in Prescott, Wisconsin. "It's always a tough year," says Liz Guberud of Orchardview Farms. "If it's not one thing, It's another."
Guberud says customers should plan to shop early this year for their favorite varieties, and be ready to substitute. "Our Connell Reds, we don't have any apples, and the McIntosh were hit hard."
Along with her apples, Guberud, too, has grown a healthy perspective. "Farming's that way. You take what comes along."
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)