NH apple growers anticipate bumper crop this year
FARMINGTON — While she doesn't have much time to bake, Gov. Maggie Hassan picked several McIntosh apples she said she would love to see in her mom's recipe for apple crisp.
Unfortunately for Hassan and her husband, Tom, who loves fresh apple pie, she was only able to pick a few apples and peaches at Butternut Farm's orchard as part of the fifth annual New England Apple Day celebration Wednesday.
"It doesn't get much better than this for apple day," Hassan said before picking the first ceremonial apple and reading a proclamation.
Hassan said she appreciated the hard work of apple producers, including Giff and Mae Burnap, who own the farm at 195 Meaderboro Road. She said that more than 200 farms and orchards produce food, contribute to the economy and draw visitors to the area, providing $12 million annually to the state.
Chuck Souther, who represents the state on the New England Apple Association, said this is the first time an orchard on the Seacoast was selected to host the ceremony.
After warmer winter weather affected last year's apple crop, Giff Burnap has high expectations for this season, which began Aug. 10 when they began picking Jersey McIntoshes. He said they planted about 25 varieties of apples to carry them through the fall.
"There's a heavy crop this year," Burnap said. "We'll be picking through Halloween."
Other orchards have also gotten a good start on the apple season.
"We have 24 kinds of apples," said Diana Russell, manager at Demeritt Hill Farm on Route 155 in Lee.
Russell said their new Zeestar apples, which came in August, were successful, and the McIntosh, Cortland and Ginger Gold crops are ready to be picked.
"The trees are loaded," Russell said, noting many people want to pick a variety of apples for snacking, baking and preserving.
"We have a huge bakery and everything we do is handmade," Russell said.
While visitors can find plenty of McIntosh, Cortland and Gala apples at McKenzie's Farm, on Northeast Pond Road off Route 125 in Milton, other varieties require a frost to make them naturally crisp, according to owner Brett McKenzie.
"A lot of our apples are available after the first frost," McKenzie said, adding Macoun, Honeycrisp and Empires need a cold snap to reach their peak.
Nonetheless, McKenzie said they will direct customers to the best options throughout the season. He said other fruits, vegetables and apple products, such as freshly baked cider doughnuts and cider, are available.
"I just bought a new press here to handle the volume," McKenzie said, adding he hopes to have it up and running this weekend.
As the weather has provided the right combination of rain and sunshine earlier this year, McKenzie expects to take advantage of the great season.
For more information, visit butternutfarm.net, demeritthillfarm.com, mckenziesfarm.com or nhfruitgrowers.org for a complete list of local apple growers.