Massachusetts Agricultural Officials Celebrate Early and Abundant Apple Harvest at Events in Ayer, Harvard, and Phillipston
The warm and sunny weather this summer has made for a superb apple harvest and a particularly sweet crop. The Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) urges Massachusetts citizens to support the apple growers of the Bay State by visiting local orchards, farm stands and farmers markets to stock up on their favorite apple varieties. With an early season due to the weather, local pick-your-own farms are already open for apple picking. Many apple varieties that usually come later in the season have already ripened and are ready for picking.
"Apple picking is not only a fun fall family activity, but the harvest contributes directly to the agricultural economy in Massachusetts," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares, who today joined the New England Apple Association at events at Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and J. P. Sullivan, a packing house in Ayer.
Mo Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough said growers are anticipating excellent picking conditions for the rest of the season, with the expectation that the arrival of cooler temperatures will produce apples with bright, red color.
"I think we will settle into more fall like weather patterns, and it will be a very successful season for growers, and consumers will enjoy the value of a family outing at incredibly affordable prices," Tougas said.
There are about 90 apple orchards in the Commonwealth, where people can enjoy apple picking, fresh cider, fresh baked pies and dumplings, and activities such as hayrides, face painting, and fall festivals.
In addition to being tasty, all apple varieties from Red Delicious, Gala and Honeycrisp to Braeburn, Jonagold and Fuji are nutritious. According to the United States Apple Association, apples contain no fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium. Apples are also an excellent source of fiber, natural plant-based anti-oxidants, and the mineral boron, which promotes healthy bones.
Massachusetts apple facts:
- More than 40 percent of apple growers market their apples directly to consumers through roadside farm stands, farmers' markets and pick-your-own operations.
- There are approximately 369 apple farms in Massachusetts.
- The value of the Massachusetts apple crop in 2008 was over $19.8 million.
- Massachusetts ranks 12th nationally for the production of apples.
Purchasing Massachusetts-grown apples is an ideal way to celebrate the autumn harvest and support local farmers at the same time. For a list of Massachusetts apple orchards, pick-your-own apple farms, and farmers' markets and roadside produce stands, DAR has an easy-to-use farm finder at http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/map.htm, which provides information about local farms, their locations, and (in most cases) contact information.
For additional information on apples and orchards in Massachusetts visit the Facebook page for the New England Apple Growers Association, which posts a weekly blog that provides great information about the apple season and upcoming events that celebrate the harvest.
DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish