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Local apple orchards end solid season

BY AARON WALKER | OCTOBER 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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As the apple season winds down,  growers said it has been a healthy harvest.

Aside from storms in late June, orchard owners had no complaints about this season.

Near Iowa City, Wilson’s Orchard is wrapping up the season, and owner Paul Rasch said this is the kind of year he prays for.

“I could hardly ask for a better season,” he said. “We’ve had almost perfect conditions.”

The ideal weather from the summer meant a profitable year.

“Numbers are up somewhat this year; I’d guess 10 percent,” Rasch said. “We had that string of cool 70-degree days and 50-degree nights, and boy, it really sharpened the apples up.”

With approximately 50 acres, Rasch said Wilson’s has around 21,000 trees.  Since opening, workers there have planted more than 120 different types of apple trees.

Wilson’s employees said they, too, thought the season’s conditions were fine.

“There were a few floods, but we didn’t really have any crop damage,” said Sam White, who has worked five summers at Wilson’s.

Another Iowa orchard owner said he’s also had a very productive season.

Monte Marti, the owner of the Big Apple Orchard near Mount Vernon, said this year has been one for the record books.

“[This year’s been] by far our best year in 10 years. I’d maybe say even double last year,” Marti said. “Two years ago we got nothing, maybe two bushels.”

Marti said aside from one storm in late June that uprooted around 25 trees, the weather has been ideal.

“We got a nice rain about three weeks ago to finish off the summer,” Marti said.

In past years, hail and storm damage has hurt the harvest but State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said this was a relatively quiet year as far as extreme weather goes.

“I think overall, it’s been a fair year,” he said. “[Iowa] didn’t have an untimely freeze in the spring or anything of that sort. We had plenty of rainfall, in some cases maybe too much.”

The Iowa City community has embraced the thriving orchard atmosphere.

University of Iowa student Samantha Kaplan visited Wilson’s for the first time Sunday. 

“I don’t know what to say other than I love it,” Kaplan said. “It’s quintessential fall.”

UI junior Kenzie Krueger said she visits the orchard every year and is excited to return at the end of the month.

“You can go apple picking, on a hay ride, and to the pumpkin patch,” she said. “It’s a nice place to just get outside and have some fun in the fall.”


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