A Good Crop of Apples (and Art)!

COMPOSITION #1, Chris Plaisted, New Milford, Connecticut. (Bar Lois Weeks)

NEW ENGLAND EXPECTS a good apple crop in 2021, a welcome development after last year’s smaller-than-normal one.

Apple growers face a series of challenges during spring and summer in order to produce an abundant fall crop. Poor pollination during spring bloom, a late frost, hail, and powerful storms can all result in fewer apples.

Most of the region has avoided these weather-related issues in 2021, including Tropical Storm Henri last weekend, which dumped lots of rain in many locations but not the damaging winds that were originally predicted.

FANTASTIC FLOWER BED, by Fiberistas, Western Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks)

While most of New England received plenty of precipitation this summer, in an area this diverse weather is rarely universal. While southern Vermont orchards are drying out from Henri, northern Vermont received no rain, as was the case for much of the growing season.

The harvest currently is about a week early in most locations, although as cooler days and nights arrive, it tends to catch up. Orchards are already brimming with early season apples as well as a bountiful crop of peaches — the best in years.

New England’s 2021 fresh apple crop is predicted to total about 3.5 million 42-pound boxes (the modern equivalent of a bushel).

HOO GOES THERE?, Dave Rothstein, Northampton, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks)

Connecticut: 600,000 boxes

Maine: 1,000,000 boxes

Massachusetts: 1,000,000 boxes

New Hampshire: 440,000 boxes

Rhode Island: 45,000 boxes

Vermont: 400,000 boxes

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APPLES ARE FAMOUS for their versatility, fresh or cooked, paired with nearly every food, good at any course of any meal. 

Apples are cultural icons, from Adam and Eve to Isaac Newton, The Big Apple (New York City), and Apple computers.

The natural beauty of apples individually and on the trees, in the bucolic settings of New England orchards, make them irresistible to artists. Two events this summer show just how dynamic this combination can be. 

ARISE, by Katie Richardson, Hadley, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks)

The Sixth Biennial Art In the Orchard is a walking sculpture trail which winds through Park Hill Orchard’s fruit gardens in Easthampton, Massachusetts. The self-guided trail is about a half-mile long. 

This year’s exhibition features jury selected works by 30 sculptors, including the works featured here. “Art in the Orchard” will remain on display through Thanksgiving.

THE POPPY FIELD, by Eileen M. Travis, Poughkeepsie, New York. (Bar Lois Weeks)
GERANIUM, by Daina Shobrys, New York, New York. (Russell Steven Powell)
PI + LOVE, Beth A. Crawford, Haydenville, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks)

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“A Day of Apples and Art” at Sholan Farms in Leominster, Massachusetts, will officially launch the 2021 New England apple harvest Saturday, September 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sponsored by New England Apple Association, admission to the daylong celebration of locally grown fruit will be free and open to the public.

Early apples are already being harvested at most New England orchards, and more than a dozen varieties will be available by September, many of them new to the public. Russell Steven Powell, author of America’s AppleApples of New England, and a seasonal apple blog at newenglandapples.org, will display, describe, and sample as many as 15 early season varieties from orchards throughout New England.

Mark Richardson, horticulturist at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, will talk about heirloom apples and Tower Hill’s expanded preservation orchard, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 100 pre-1900 varieties of apples.

Chef Paul Correnty will give a talk about the history of cider in New England, followed by a cider-making demonstration by Jack Donahue.

Correnty has been helping to revive interest in American hard cider for the last 30 years. One of four founders of CiderDays festival in Franklin County, he is author of The Art of Cidermaking.

Donahue will give an overview of home cider-making, demonstrating the basic steps of juice, yeast, time, and bottling. He has been a home cider-maker for more than 20 years, and he is a member of Valley Fermenters.

Artist Jan Ruby-Crystal will lead a painting workshop for children and paint in the orchard, too. She is an artist, educator, and a curious observer of nature. As the founder of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary’s Art House, Ruby-Crystal has created new opportunities to celebrate the connection between art, science, and nature.

Throughout the day, visitors will be able to meet with and observe a number of  “plein air” (painting outdoors) artists throughout the orchard.

In addition to apples and fresh cider, local food trucks will be on hand, and there will be live music.

The “Day of Apples and Art” is the first in a series of proposed “traveling museum” events planned around New England to showcase New England-grown apples and orchards and their rich history. The events are part of a feasibility study for a New England Museum of Apples and Cider that would promote locally grown apples and ciders year-round.

For more information, write to info@newenglandapples.org. 

HERE ARE SOME of the New England orchards providing apples to “A Day of Apples and Art.” More next week!

Scott Farm Orchard, Dummerston, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell)
Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Bar Lois Weeks)
The Big Apple, Wrentham, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)
Green Mountain Orchards, Putney, Vermont. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)

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  • Leslie Mason

    What a lively series, thanks Russ! and so glad the harvest is more than plenty this year!

    • Russell Powell

      Thank you, Leslie! We’ve got some great apples on the trees, and we are excited about sharing some of them at Sholan Farms this Saturday.