GOSHEN – After a drought-induced hiatus last year, apple-picking season is under way at Kercher's Sunrise Orchard on Goshen's south side, and this year's crop may be the sweetest yet for consumers and the Kercher family.
After last year destroyed virtually the entire apple crop, “It's like a million times better,” said Maureen Kercher, who runs the business with her husband, Tom.
It should be a wonderful year for apple lovers, because this year's crop looks and tastes great, she said. “It's good to have good-looking apples. It's a bonus when they taste good.” With the relatively small amount of recent moisture, the sugars in the apples aren't diluted, so they'll be sweeter than many years, Kercher said.
That means “the cider's going to be outstanding this year,” she said. They'll do the first pressing for cider this week.
While most of the apple trees are extra-heavily laden thanks to the lack of a crop last year, Kercher thinks the demand is going to be strong, too. “I think it'll be a huge year, based on what we're seeing with the peaches. They really missed our peaches last year, and the demand has been huge,” she said.
The orchard and market will be open for picking on Labor Day, and fall hours are 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., with wagons and bags available.
This year there will be a total of 10 varieties available for picking, with Jonagolds and Fujis added to the end-of-season lineup. “We just keep trying to add more,” Kercher said.
The variety available to start will be McIntosh, and Kercher said if people want McIntosh apples, “they need to get them in the next week.”
Jonathan apples will be next, along with Cortlands, which should last through September and into October.
Golden delicious apples will be next up, but they'll be short this year because the trees were the one variety that didn't produce a lot of apples this year, Kercher said.
Filling in the gap, though, will be the Jonagolds, which should be available in mid-October, around the same time the Fuji apples are ready to pick, Kercher said.
Hayrides will start the last weekend of September, and the pumpkin crop – the only good crop the Kerchers had last year – looks outstanding again, Kercher said.
School field trips are already filling the fall schedule, she said. “We try to educate people. We do what we can.”