Virginia apple farmers feel impact of extreme weather as season enters its prime

apples

WYTHEVILLE (WSLS 10) – It seemed like all was going well at one of the only orchards left in Wythe County. A March warm-up led to early blossoms this year.

“It started off like most seasons. We had a pretty good bloom,” said Williams Orchard owner Bobby Williams.

Then came the frost.

“It works on everything. Some varieties survived a lot better than others did,” continued Williams.

Three days in the upper teens and twenties followed by an April snow led to devastation.

“It causes a lot of damage. It freezes the blossoms and the leaves and things that’s coming out,” Williams said. “So it really does look like something has been burned.”

The damage to apple crops wasn’t seen everywhere, not even in neighboring Carroll County.

“Every place is different. Every season is different,” Williams said.

Williams said Wytheville is typically colder by several degrees than Carroll County, where the apple crop wasn’t lost. A lot, he says, depends on elevation.

“If you have your orchard up on higher hills you tend to have better success at surviving,” explained Williams.

He is now buying Virginia apples from nearby Cana to sell to his roadside market.

“Been buying most of the apples from down in Carroll County and Patrick County and were using all Virginia apples trying to keep Virginia apples prominent in the area,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  apples were Virginia’s 15th largest agricultural commodity with farm cash receipts totaling $37 million in 2014, the last year for which the agency has figures, according to a news release.

He and wife Kathy are counting on an abundance of crops like corn and pumpkins, which at his Wytheville farm benefited from the weather.

“So far we have a goodie, pretty good pumpkin crop this year and I’m hoping that the weekend weather will hold out good for us,” Williams said.

The couple is holding out for next month’s fall festival to make it through the end of the season with success.

Ironically, the farm apple wagon is filled with pumpkins, which will be sold at wholesale or during the festivals.

The Williams Orchard Fall Festival will be held every weekend in October. Festival hours will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 pm and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

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