The Peru, NY-based Forrence Orchards apple crop looks fabulous this year, said Peter Forrence, vice president of the company.
“We’ve had plenty of sunshine and sufficient recent rain to produce spectacular flavor,” he said. “We are very enthusiastic going forward. Our acreage is unchanged at about 1,100 acres, producing between 600,000 and 650,000 bushes, which is about where we’ve been in the last few years.”
While it is too early to be sure, Mr. Forrence said that the apples could be slightly smaller than they were last year, but he added that the last couple of crops have been on the large size.
He and other apple professionals said that the Honey Crisp variety is a favorite around the world today. The company has significantly more of the variety than it has had in the past, but it also still concentrates on Cortland and McIntosh varieties, both of which are major programs for the company.
“The Honey Crisp is just another option,” Mr. Forrence explained. “People want all three varieties. We think that the traditional apple buyer continues to want McIntosh and Cortland apples. The Cortland comes on around the holidays, and is favored as a cooking apple. However, it is transitioning into an eating apple.
“People like the tart-sweet flavor of the McIntosh versus the sweeter varieties from Washington,” he continued. “The Honey Crisp has a sort of cult following, and people are including them on their tables because of its unique flavor. It is so sought after that, when I travel socially, everyone asks me if I grow the Honey Crisp.”
He added that production of the Honey Crisp is still low enough, with high-enough demand, to keep prices strong.
“Good Honey Crisp apples sell wonderfully,” he said, “but there are a lot of poor ones on the market. Those produced in the west don’t have the flavor, texture or coloring that we’re able to produce in New York.”
Going forward, Forrence Orchards will continue to expand its Honey Crisp production. Mr. Forrence said that the company continually pulls out older trees and replants with the variety. The setback for the apple is that it doesn’t store well.
“It’s in such high demand that it’s easy to sell them all as fresh apples in the fall,” he said. “We run out in late fall so there is a void from January through April, but demand remains high.”
The company has had marginal success at storing the Honey Crisp.
“We do not have an exact storage formula for the variety,” said Mr. Forrence. “And despite ongoing research and attempts, there may never be a particularly good method to store them. It is similar to the Macoun, which simply doesn’t store well. We don’t know the answer. If I did, I’d know how to store them. No one has been able to come up with the perfect answer.”
Forrence Orchards has procured a new grading system for larger-size fruit like Cortland and Honey Crisp apples. It will be on line for the first time this season and will be an addition to the company’s existing grading line.
The company started picking the first week of August, but will be in full-harvesting force by the beginning of September.
Mr. Forrence said that the company, like every producer in the country, continues to deal with labor issues. “This will be the downfall of the industry if it isn’t sorted out soon,” he said.
He also agreed that the announcement that McDonald’s will begin including apple slices in all of its Happy Meals in September will create a significant increase in demand.
“They will take a lot of apples off the market that otherwise would be available,” he said. “We don’t sell for processing, but nonetheless, McDonald’s increased use will put a demand on our crop, resulting in a fresh market void. That may result in higher prices, which we need to stay in business.”