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Drought Shrinks Apple Crop, Brings It Early

If you're planning on picking apples this fall, you'll want to get out there very soon.

If you plan on picking your own apples this season, you will want to head to the orchard soon.

“It’s a crazy, crazy apple year,” Chris Aamodt, of in Stillwater said Wednesday morning. “If you want to pick apples this year, you better do it now. I bet we’ll be done picking apples by the end of September, if not sooner.”

A Tough Year

That advice comes on the tail end of a tough year for apple growers nationwide.

Spring freezes decimated this year’s apple crop from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean, Aamodt said. Washington State was doing well, but got hit by hailstorm about a month ago, wiping out about half the crop. Drought and high winds have impacted apples growing states in the south.

The three largest apple-producing states—Washington, Michigan and New York—are way down on production this year, Aamodt said. Michigan’s harvest is at less than 10 percent crop, New York at less than 15 percent crop and Washington is estimated to be around 50 percent.

Essentially, the reduction in apple supply will not only mean less apples, but higher prices.

“To sum it up, if you find Minnesota apples in grocery stores, it’s going to be a rarity, and if you do see them, the prices are going to be astronomical this year,” Aamodt said. “It’s a once in 100-year event. I hope we’ll never see apple prices like this again, but there’s no supply. If you want to find Minnesota apples, you’ll have to go to the orchards, because we’re the one’s that have them.”

While the apple crop is historically low nationwide, Aamodt said orchards in Washington County have seen a decent crop.

Aamodt estimates the freeze damage at his family’s to be less than 10 percent. Some apple orchards in areas west of the Twin Cities were hit harder by the freeze; and while the Lake City area survived the freeze, a hailstorm hit in June and the orchards lost everything, he said. Orchards in southern Minnesota have battled both the freeze and hail.

Higher Prices

While the timeframe to find early-season apple varieties and pick your own apples is shrinking, Aamodt said the apple farm will have plenty of apples available for purchase in the barn all year, but people should expect apple prices to be up across the board.

SuperValu has canceled almost all of their apple promotions for fall, because they just can’t get apples, Aamodt said. For example, the average price for Honeycrisp apples was about $2.99 per pound last year. This year, the base price is $3.99 per pound; and Minnesota Honeycrisps were on the shelves of Kowalski’s this week for $4.99 per pound.

But the apples that did survive the season are some of the best Aamodt said he’s seen in a long time.

“The Minnesota apples you do see at the orchards are good,” he said. “Unfortunately what you are seeing in the stores are not as good because it’s all they could get—and that’s the crazy part. It’s about supply.”

'Tipsy Treats'

There’s no shortage of things to do at Aamodt’s in the fall, but the newest attraction to the apple farm is the addition of Sara Hayden’s Rustic Pies of Stillwater.

“Sara is phenomenal and the new pies she’s baking here are really cool,” Aamodt said.

This fall, Hayden is baking three different “Tipsy Pies” and Tipsy cookies from scratch at Aamodt’s—Chestnut Hill Apple Pie (featuring ); 2 Gingers Irish Apple Pie (featuring 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey); and Aamodt’s Blushing Apple Pie (featuring Raspberry Infusion wine).

The Tipsy Cookies are mini-versions of the pies.

“It’s fun to be able to have her here,” Aamodt said. “She does everything from scratch, and that fits in well with the things we do here.”

Events

In addition to apple picking, Tipsy Pies, Aamodt’s famous apple brats and tours of St. Croix Vineyards, Aamodt’s offers a John Deere playground, wagon rides and a variety of peak season activities including the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

“We try to keep everything we do educational,” Aamodt said. “We don’t want to compete with Valley Fair. There’s no twirling apple rides, we have the stuff people would expect to see on a farm. The winery is also entering its 20th year, and is growing in leaps and bounds—so parents can enjoy a glass of wine while their kids play on the playground.”

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