In the nearly 13 years Darryl Maloney has co-owned Log Cabin Orchard with his wife, Yazmin Maloney, he said this has been the worst yield yet.
A cold spring, followed by a dry summer in eastern Ontario has made for harsh apple growing conditions this year and local orchard owners are feeling the effects at what would normally be peak season.
Maloney said his orchard located in Osgoode, in Ottawa’s rural south end, had to contend with a number of factors that affected crop production, including a late frost around the time the apples were beginning to blossom, and a dry summer — all of which meant several hectares worth of the fruit were unable to mature properly in time for harvest.
“The money is just not in the trees this year,” he said.
“We don’t have weather anymore, we have storms,” he said.
He estimates the poor growing conditions affected 70 per cent of this year’s crop and changed the way he and his wife, Yazmin Maloney, have been able to operate their business. The couple weren’t able to sell any product to grocery stores or farmers markets like they’ve done most other years.
During a normal year, Maloney’s orchard would typically produce enough apples to allow people to pick their own for up to six weeks during the late summer and early fall.
But this year, when the four-hectare orchard opened to the public in mid-September, it was picked clean within two days.
“Last year, every tree probably grew anywhere between three to six, [18 kilogram] bushels,” he said. This year, however, nearly three quarters worth of the trees barely had any blossoms, he said. To make up for the loss, Maloney had to pre-pick apples from a second orchard he owns and bring them to Log Cabin Orchard to sell to customers.
Shelley Lyall’s experience this summer has been similar to Maloney’s. The co-owner of Mountain Orchards said the cold spring and summer drought knocked off between 70 to 75 per cent of her crop.
“There’s been sort of the perfect storm, really. We’ve had almost three years of drought conditions, back-to-back-to-back and that’s really stressed the trees out,” she said. Lyall said she did fare better than some other orchards in the area, some of which weren’t able to open at all this season.
“Just offer people a place to come, just be out in the country and try to relax as much as possible.”
In terms of planning ahead to next season, Lyall said even though this year has been a challenge, she’ll continue to do what she’s always done in the past. In general, she said orchards in south and eastern Ontario are producing a light crop all around.