Apple-picking season begins amid orchard shortages

Apple-picking season begins amid orchard shortages

It’s been a tough year for farmers: First, there was an unusually warm spring, followed by a few frosty nights and then a summer-long drought. September is the big month for pick-your-own apples in Illinois, but this year, some orchard owners say they’re worried they won’t be able to turn a profit.

Wade Kuipers, owner of Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park, IL, normally makes about $250-300,000 on his apple orchard alone.

But this year, Kuipers says he had to spend thousands of dollars on special equiptment like boilers and frost fans to try and ward off the frost in the spring.

“We had a crew of ten people out there plus my whole family, my kids, driving tractors spraying warm water out there, running sprayers with fans to keep air moving and keep it circulating.”

After all that, Kuipers says he salvaged about half of his crop — but he still might not break even.

Down the road at Honey Hill Orchards in Waterman, IL, owner Steve Bock says he’s had to cut their apple picking schedule back by four days because of the shortage.

“This will be one of those years where definitely you’ll be relying on what you made in the past to carry through. And at this time, I’m really looking forward to next year,” Bock said.

But even with customers coming Friday-Sunday this season, Bock says they may only have enough apples for two or three more weekends.