Wild weather ride affects Minnesota apple volume

From Fresh Plaza | 21 November 2023

Overview of apples in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on November 21, 2023.

Following good spring bloom weather, Minnesota saw a roller coaster of weather events this season and in turn, its apple crop is down. “It was a difficult growing season,” says Aaron Brand of Brand Farms in Farmington, Minnesota. “We were very dry all summer–once we got into the middle of June, the rain shut off and I didn’t have any rain between early July until harvest. Then the first rain we had was in harvest season and it was almost four inches in 12 hours. We saw it coming and we picked as hard as we could.”

That meant at harvest time, Brand Farms had two instances where there were five to six days where that rain impacted the ability to harvest. Add to this that September in Minnesota was one of the hottest on record.

That did leave some fruit with issues. “Some of us have never seen cracking on the fruit so bad–especially on the SweeTango and the Honeycrisp varieties. I’d never seen the fruit split in half like that,” Brand says, noting that his farm doesn’t have irrigation. He does add that growers who did have irrigation didn’t experience cracking to the same degree, though it still happened.

Freeze at the end

Then, in the last week of October and into November, the first freeze hit though that was later than usual. “That side of things in the fall isn’t that big of a problem. We had most of the fruit off anyways and what’s on there at that time isn’t worth harvesting like split Honeycrisps,” he says, noting that the end of the season also saw some hail.

apple volumes by origin 1

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

apple volumes by origin 2

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

In Minnesota, the state doesn’t send much of its fruit to the commercial marketplace as much as powerhouse apple-producing states such as New York or Washington do. “We’re more on the direct-to-consumer, U-pick/agritourism side,” Brand says. In turn, the state still has many of its older varieties growing such as Haralson, Honey Gold, Fireside, SnowSweet, Cortland, Zestar and more.

As for demand for apples, it looked similar to last year and pricing for Brand Farms was also similar to last year, in part to accommodate a crop that saw hail late into harvest.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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