This year’s apple crop better than ever, after rough season last year

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RACINE COUNTY (WITI) -- A Racine County apple farmer says his harvest has never been better -- and this year's crop offers quite a contrast compared to last year's low yield.

"I'm a very happy guy this year," Apple Holler owner Dave Flannery said.

Flannery says this year, his orchards feature trees with limbs so loaded with apples that they droop down -- quite different from last year. Last summer's drought had a significant impact on the apple crop.

"It was the most challenging, most difficult, hard year as far as growing is concerned since we've been here," Flannery said.

Flannery says with Mother Nature giving us an early thaw, a late freeze and a drought last year, he lost 85% of his yearly yield.

This hurt various facets of the business, from hindering the production of several apple-based items on the restaurant and gift shop menus to cutting the number of visitors who could purchase the products.

"It was a devastating year," Flannery said.

This year, Mother Nature is giving us a ripe reward.

"Because we had such a small crop last year, all that energy went into developing apple buds and consequently, a very large, huge -- biggest apple crop that we've ever had," Flannery said.

According to Flannery, there were so many apple buds that in May and June, staff members had to "thin" the trees!

"Actually physically picking-off some of the fruit so that the remaining apples get more of the energy, and actually grow larger," Flannery said.

Flannery says this time of year is the farm's busiest, and says Apple Holler is hosting several hundred school children each day.

Cranberries are also doing well this season.

Wisconsin is home to the largest producer of cranberries in the nation.

Cranberry harvest usually lasts from late September to the first week in November -- but workers say right now is the prime time to harvest the fruit.

According to "Ocean Spray," Americans consume 400,000 pounds of cranberries a year.