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Local Orchards Weather The Storm

Almost all businesses suffer when unseasonal storms hit hard, but what about the local orchards, whose very existence is built on trees?

Andrew Outhouse of North Salem’s Outhouse Orchards said, “Apple trees are not usually affected by snow. They’re grown and bred for heavy-bearing weight.

“If we still had apples on the trees it might have been a problem, but it was the end of the season for us. Our season ended last weekend. In fact, people were out there picking the last of the apples while it was ‘blizzarding’ on Saturday.”

He added, “It did hurt the pumpkin business, though. We have a lot of pumpkins left over. The last thing on people’s minds was carving a pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern.”

What will they do with all the excess pumpkins? “We might use them as organic fertilizer.”

Betsy Stuart of Stuart’s Farm in Somers had a more tragic story. “We lost power on Saturday about 4:30 and didn’t get it back until Tuesday after two o’clock," she said.

“Twenty of our apple trees snapped in half. They just fell over in the wind and the snow,” even though most of the apples had already been picked. Some of the lost trees were only four or five years old. One big old Macoun apple tree was lost.

“We’ll replace the ones we lost,” said Stuart, “but it takes five years before a tree begins to bear fruit.” During Hurricane Irene, 150 trees fell over, “but we sewed them back up and were able to save them,” she added.

Stuart’s also lost business in the shop because it was closed. There are a lot of pumpkins left. The good news is that Halloween, cancelled by Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy because of the serious conditions, has been rescheduled for Saturday, November 5. “People are calling up, asking if we have any pumpkins left.”

The owners of Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard , near Outhouse Orchards on North Salem’s Hardscrabble Road, also considered themselves lucky. There was minimal damage to the apple trees, “because they’re used to weight and load,” explained Rob Covino, but the storm did have a negative effect on sales.

“We didn’t lose our power but there were no customers. Bad weather always affects our business. A bad weather forecast can kill you, even when it’s wrong,” he continued.

“Last weekend was our Fall Festival and we had to cancel it. We had a live band scheduled, with pony rides and candy apples and lots of pies. We had 600 gallons of cider, which we press ourselves.” They donated all of it to the local shelters.

What about the pumpkins? “We’ll feed them to the animals,” said Rob Covino. “The Highland cows love them and so do the chickens. The turkeys don’t like them, though…” Maybe it’s just too close to Thanksgiving?

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