Apples blooming in southwest Wisconsin

Wisconsin apple grower and farm marketer anticipates strong 2013 crop

Gays Mills, Wis.  While many Wisconsin growers had a disappointing harvest in 2012, nature favored apple trees in Gays Mills last year, according to third-generation grower Allen Teach. And hes expecting an even larger crop in 2013, given recent weather conditions.

Spring weather is always challenging, said Teach, who along with wife, Lynne, own and operate 225-acre Sunrise Orchards. The topography of our land is truly unique. We have very steep hillsides that encourage cold air to drain to ground level, often sparing our apple trees from frost that damages orchards on flatter land.

After coming safely through last weekends sub-freezing night temperatures, Teachs apple trees are now bursting into bloom. The trees were at full pink at Mothers Day, and will open into full blossoms over the next two weeks, Teach said, with the earlier-maturing apples blooming first.

Our apple trees came through winter in excellent condition, Teach said. While we had temperatures of  10 degrees F., that was normal and caused virtually no winter damage because we didnt have any dramatic temperature swings. We also had great snow cover, which is desirable because it maintains humidity around the trees.

Sunrise Orchards apple trees are well-rested and well-hydrated, Teach said. Were now entering a period of warm weather that should lead to excellent blooming and pollination. Its going to be a good year, he predicted.

The family-run Sunrise Orchards is operated by the Teaches with sister and brother-in-law, Laurie and Kevin Oppreicht. They grows 25 varieties of apples on a commercial basis using sustainable practices. All varieties are sold at the Sunrise Orchard farm market to consumers from a four-state area. The most popular varieties are McIntosh, Honeycrisp and Cortland.

The 100-year-old orchard also stores and packs apples for wholesale across the Great Lakes in a partnership with Riveridge Produce Marketing, of Sparta, Michigan.

Locally-grown Wisconsin apples are in demand throughout Wisconsin, and they work well with our product mix, said Don Armock, president of Riveridge.

Teach does not anticipate any challenges with Sunrises honeybees, which arrived in Wisconsin the evening after Mothers Day.

While people have heard news about the lack of bees nationwide, this scare story has not become reality for us, Teach said. Our bees spend winter in the almond groves of California, then are trucked here in robust condition to pollinate our apple trees. After apples finish blooming, many of the hives will be used to pollinate Wisconsins cranberry bogs.