If you were to ask most Hamilton-area apple farmers to compare this year’s crop with last year’s, they might say that it is apples and oranges. Or apples and nothing, perhaps.
Last year, apple crops were devastated by poor weather conditions. Record heat in March, followed by a series of sub-zero nights in April led to the loss of nearly 85 per cent of apple crops across the province. Some farmers harvested no apples at all.
The nightmarish conditions translated into a roughly $60-million loss for Ontario farmers. And because pickers were not hired and workers at packing plants were laid off, the provincial economy lost an estimated $350 to $400 million, according to the Ontario Apple Growers Association.
This year, however, farmers are basking in far better weather, and are sunnily optimistic about this summer’s apple crop.
"This year is 110 per cent better. The trees have blossomed and all of our crops are looking great," said Binbrook farmer Brenda Fletcher.
"Last year we only had a full crop of Golden Delicious, but this year all of (the varieties) will be ready. We won’t be sold out until next July instead of this December."
Brian Gilroy, head of the Ontario Apple Growers, said that severe weather is always a concern, and that last year only a small fraction of the 10 million bushels of apples that are usually harvested on a yearly basis were sent to market.
"Just five minutes of hail could ruin a crop," Gilroy said.
But Ontarians should look forward to an abundance of Ontario apples this year.
"Right now we’re looking at possibly having a bumper crop. Starting in August, shoppers can look forward to seeing Ontario apples showing up in grocery stores."