Highland News Leader

Local apple crop expected to be best ever

Jerry Mills picks a Jonathan apple late last week at his orchard in rural Marine.
Jerry Mills picks a Jonathan apple late last week at his orchard in rural Marine. News Leader

The apple-picking season is shaping up to be a serious haul at Mills Apple Farm in rural Marine.

“It will be a bumper crop,” said owner Jerry Mills. “I have never seen something like this (in the 34 years) I have owned the farm.”

He didn’t see this one coming, either.

“When I started to thin the trees earlier this spring, I didn’t think they looked this good,” he said.

The weather this year, highlighted by extremely wet conditions, was not good for much. Many area gardens have suffered, and it produced the worst wheat crop local farmers have had in recent memory. But it has been good for apples.

“The weather so far this year has provided prime growing conditions,” Mills said. “There hasn’t really been anything that’s had an adverse effect on it. There was no spring frost, and the bloom was normal. We actually had a heavy bloom. There were lots of flowers. There was just no stress to the trees this year, there’s plenty of fruit out there.”

And there’s more coming.

Mills said his Jonathan and Golden Delicious apple varieties are expected to produce especially largest yields.

“Normally, some apples start to fall off the trees by this time, because they don’t have enough nutrients,” he said.

But that’s not the case this year.

“The apple crop is so fruitful this year. If I were able to sell every apple my trees produced this year, I would be able to pay off my new apple shed in one year,” Mills joked.

He is planning to rebuild a 100-by-80-foot shed this fall. Some of the money is coming from “generous donations” collected in the wake of the fire that destroyed Mills’ old shed in the spring of 2014.

“I hope I’m using their money wisely,” he said.

Mills said he will pay for the difference out of his own pocket.

In addition to the shed, Mills also lost his cider press in the fire. So, he plans to have an undisclosed vendor make his cider until he gets his own press operational again, hopefully by next season.

Though, he is not counting on another harvest like this one.

“It often takes an apple tree a year to recover after it produces a heavy crop,” said Mills.