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Apple orchards delay openings due to climate

Some orchards say the cold spring and dry summer has delayed the ripening of some of their apples.

AFTON, Minnesota — The temperatures may still feel like summer, but apple picking season is upon us. 

However, due to the colder spring and relatively dry summer, some orchards have had a hard time opening on time. Or in the case of Afton Apple, they've had to work extremely hard to be able to welcome guests this week.

"We always aim for like beautiful 70 degree days with some sunshine and a nice soaking rain in the evening," Afton Apple Assistant Manager Sarah Parkos said with a laugh.

But Parkos isn't a perfectionist; and quite frankly, neither is mother nature.

"This past year has been pretty dry. We had that late spring, and then it was a dry hot summer--so normally our strawberry season was about four weeks but this season it was two weeks," she said. "The sunflowers are about a week behind from the lack of rain, so we've been irrigating like crazy."

Round the clock irrigation--has paid off.

"We opened this past Saturday with our first variety of Paula Red," Parkos said. "We have 15 varieties we grow on our farm here so we will open a new variety every week or so."

Some orchards, like Minnetonka Orchard had to delay opening by a week or so.

They said in a statement that they were disappointed to delay that "a combination of a cooler spring and drier summer may have had a slight delay in harvest early on."

But they say they "have bounced back, and the apples are looking good; they're just not quite ripe yet."

Parkos said many folks in the industry have a rolling-with-the-punches kind of attitude.

"It's very much weather dependent and you have to be able to be flexible and do your best," she explained. "We don't know what mother nature is going to throw at all. We've gone down some difficult paths with some storms we're just really grateful to have what we have."

Parkos said they will continue picking apples until just before the deep freeze, so many orchards will be available for access until mid or end of October.

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