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After extended warm summer, apple harvest season comes early in Minnesota

Rick Julian looks at some Northern Lights apples on one of his trees at the Lake Ida Apple Farm south of Lake Park. Dave Wallis / The Forum

LAKE PARK, Minn. - The trees at the Lake Ida Apple Farm near here are a little bit fuller than usual this time of year.

Thanks to the mild winter, the warm spring and the hot summer, the apple harvest throughout Minnesota has arrived several weeks early.

At the Lake Ida Apple Farm, co-owner Sharon Julian said some of their apples are actually as many as three weeks early and ready to come off the trees.

"We have apples that are normally ripe at the end of September, and they're about ready now," Julian said.

That's the case all over the state, said Ron Smith, horticulturist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

"I've lived here for 27 years, and if there's been a season that's been earlier, I honestly can't recall it," Smith said. "This is so significant."

Smith and his wife started harvesting their State Fair apples in late July.

Normally, as their name implies, those apples are ripe when the Minnesota State Fair starts toward the end of August.

"And here we are, finishing up the harvest (before Labor Day)," Smith said. "That's incredible."

Julian and her husband have operated their orchard at 11545 West Lake Ida Lane in Lake Park since 2000, and she agrees that this is the earliest apple-picking season she can remember.

"Look at our summer, look at our spring - it's never been like this," she said.

The orchard, which grows six varieties of apples, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.

A message left at the other local apple orchard - Maple Hills Orchard, located at 29355 130th St. in Frazee, is just off Highway 10. A message left there was not returned, but the answering machine said the orchard officially opened this weekend. It is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What's perhaps most notable about the early harvest this year is that even Haralson apples, which typically aren't ready until after a frost, will be ripe enough to pick soon.

"Normally, people say wait for frost, but this year it won't happen," Julian said. "We're just not going to get an early frost this year that's going to benefit them."

Smith doesn't expect that to harm the quality or quantity of this year's apple crop in general.

"Our apples couldn't be any sweeter," he said, adding that people shouldn't risk waiting for a frost, only to have their apples spoil.

"They're just good apples," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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