La Crescent apple picking season in full swing - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

La Crescent apple picking season in full swing

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La Crescent, MN (WXOW) -

Apple orchards around southeastern Minnesota are busy harvesting bushels of apples as harvesting season gets underway and La Crescent's Applefest kicks off this week.

While Minnesota is not one of the top ten apple producing states in the country, what it lacks in volume farmers say it makes up for in variety.

"The varieties have changed a great deal," Ralph Yates, General Manager of Fruit Acres said. "Especially beginning in the early 1990s when honeycrisp apples came online. That changed the business."

Yates said by the end of the 1990s, honeycrisp was the most sought after type of apple, helping the apple farming business expand.

"Growers got excited about the business again because they could ask a price for an apple and people would pay it which allowed them to make a living again," he said.

While current weather is ideal for harvesting, the rest of the year hasn't been the same. Several hail storms and heavy rains caused many local farmers to lose the majority of their apple crop.

"Even so, we're going to start harvesting our main lines like honeycrisp," Yates said. "We've had a good go on wealthy and sweet tango and we're just going to go right down the line and harvest these varieties."

Jim Luby, a professor of horticulture at the University of Minnesota said while the highest concentration of orchards are in the Twin Cities, southeastern Minnesota is home to the most acres.

"The Mississippi River Valley has the mildest winters in the state so that helps with tree survival," he said. "Also topography helps too, to have orchards on top of bluffs or on hillsides is generally better as well."

Once the apples are harvested, they're shipped off to retailers like Bauer's.

"We can bring orchard fresh to people sometimes as quick as 12 hours later," Bruce Bauer, owner of Bauer's Market and Nursery, said. "The apples are barely off the three, they come to us , we package them and you're getting apples that fresh."

The annual wholesale value of the U.S. apple crop is close to $4 billion. The U.S. is the world's second largest producer of apples behind China.

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