Warm fall weather makes for a busy apple season
Harry Weiser, owner of Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury, watches his daughter Krista Weiser throw a stick for his dogs on Friday, October 18, 2013.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Harry Weiser, owner of Hackleboro Orchard, in Canterbury, stands on an observation deck at Hackleboro on Friday, October 18, 2013.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Leaves turning to bright orange and yellow is a sure sign each September that fall is here – and that means apple season is, too.
At Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury, peak picking season runs from September through October, and this year’s warm temperatures mean the weekends are especially busy, owner Harry Weiser said.
The orchard is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day in the fall for families and groups of friends who want to come pluck their own apples off the trees. From Macintosh to Cortland to Red and Golden Delicious, Hackleboro has a variety of apples to choose from. It also offers the Honey Crisp apples, a popular variety this year, but they are not available for picking. If picking apples isn’t your thing, Hackleboro also runs farm stands on site and one on Route
4 in Boscawen. In the winter, it will sell apples and cider donuts at a winter market at Cole Gardens in Concord.
Picking season will continue through the year’s first hard freeze, and if this month’s weather is any indication, that could be a ways away. Here’s what Weiser had to say about this season and his business:
How has the warm weather affected this years crop?
Actually we’ve had really good apple weather, the size has been great, the colors have been great. With all the sun we’ve had, the people have been coming out. It’s been a fantastic fall compared to the last two or three.
Were those last two or three slower than normal?
Yes, (because of) rain. When you have apple picking, you need sun. You still have the brave souls that will come out and pick in the rain, but the number are greatly diminished. We have five strong weekends that we bank on, and if we get rain for two or three of those weekends, it can really put a damper on the season.
Is the season winding down now?
Not winding down, but slowing down, yeah. The leaves are starting to come off the trees.
When is your busiest time?
Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What types of apples do you offer?
Macs and Cortlands are the old standby, everybody wants Macs and Cortlands. Other varieties (are) the Empires, Red and Golden Delicious, Northern Spy, and the Honey Crisp, which is getting to be a very popular apple. (Honey Crisp are not available for pick-your-own.)
What are some of your other fall offerings?
We have farm animals, we do weekend hayrides, we have a view that you can see over to Vermont (and) you can see downtown Concord. It’s an amazing view in the fall, we’ve got acres and acres to roam in. We sell pumpkins, winter squash, gourds – all that fall stuff – honey and maple syrup, jams and jellies.
What’s new at the orchard?
We have planted more than apples; we have plums, nectarines and peaches, we’ve got two greenhouses now that we grow tomatoes and peppers. In the last five years, we’ve gotten into the greenhouse. . . . My oldest peach trees are probably 10 years old; we’ve been adding to it, and we try new varieties (of apples) like the Honey Crisp. We try to keep up with those, things that people want, that’s what you’ve got to have.
What kind of work do you have to do the rest of the year to prepare for apple season?
After harvest it’s clean up, put everything to bed, clean up the orchard. And then once it gets cold enough, we start pruning, and pruning goes until April.
And then we usually start up summer pruning in June and July and August. Once we hit April, it’s time to get the brush out of the orchard, time to get the sprayer cleaned and ready to go.
How many employees do you have?
We probably have eight to 10 farm stand employees and six or seven orchard employees during harvest.
Is the grow/buy local movement affecting your business?
I think it is in a positive way. Last summer we did five farmers markets . . . that’s where you see the big push for the buy local. We’re trying to get grocery stores to get on board with the buy local thing. We need people to tell store owners they want to see New Hampshire apples in their stores.
Lord knows there are enough orchards in New Hampshire to supply the state with apples.
Where do you sell your apples?
We wholesale to other farm stands. We sell direct delivery to Shaw’s and Vista Foods in Laconia.
How large is your orchard?
We have 38 acres of apples, 2 acres of peaches, nectarines and plums, and about 2 acres of blueberries.
How many apples do you set aside for the winter markets?
Right now we have probably 4,000 to 5,000 bushels in storage.