Fruit season a bright spot in a bleak summer

08/14/09 5:50PM By Ross Sneyd
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AP Photo/Stephen Senne
(Host) One bright spot in an otherwise bleak summer for Vermont farmers can be found in orchards and berry patches.

As VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, the persistent rain has actually been good for fruits of all kinds.

(Sneyd) Blueberry bushes have been a picker's delight this summer. They're overflowing with beautiful, plump berries.

Kelly Loftus keeps track of how the season is going on farms of all kinds for the Agriculture Agency.

(Loftus) "I heard from a number of blueberry producers that this year was one of the best years that they've had in terms of the size, the quality, the taste."

(Sneyd) Wet weather may make the berries grow, but it doesn't necessarily translate into banner sales at pick-your-own farms around the state.  

(Loftus) "Producers can have the best strawberries or blueberries around. But if it's raining, people tend not to go to the pick-your-owns. So that's another issue that the weather creates, as well."

(Sneyd) Vermont apple orchards are hoping for a shot of sunny weather as we head into the fall.

Right now, many orchards have reported "scabbing" on their apples. The dark spots on the skin of the fruit doesn't affect their quality or taste, but it does make them less attractive.

Some nice sunny days will help eliminate many of the scabs. Farmers are hopeful that they can hold at bay other pests and diseases until they harvest.

Trees are full of ripening fruit right now, but Loftus says the apples are maturing a little more slowly than usual because of the cool, wet weather.

(Loftus) "Typically it would be late August, early September. Most of the orchards that I spoke with ... were shooting for that first week in September as an opening date."

(Sneyd) Fruit farms are just a small part of the overall agricultural economy in Vermont. Dairy is still king, and the challenges those farms have faced this summer have been well documented.

But the fruit farms are important to the state as much for the image they help to portray of Vermont as a farm state as for their contribution to the bottom line.

The way the Agriculture Agency sees it, roadside apple stands and pick-your-own orchards are as much a part of autumn as hillsides of blazing maples and black-and-white cows.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

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