Kylie Pick enjoys one of the six kinds of apples available for sampling at Northeastern High School on Wednesday offered by Triple A Dwarf Acres Orchards
Kylie Pick enjoys one of the six kinds of apples available for sampling at Northeastern High School on Wednesday offered by Triple A Dwarf Acres Orchards during a celebration of Get to Know Your Farmer Week at the school. (Bil Bowden photo)

After an apple harvest that began two weeks early last year, things are mostly back to normal this time around, local growers say.

A late frost in May damaged some of the apples at Paulus Orchards in Monaghan Township, said owner Karen Paulus, but this season is otherwise pretty standard.

"It's a good season," she said. "It's certainly not a bad season."

The orchard serves up 13 varieties of apples at its stand, as well as pick-your-own events on weekends in September and October, she said. This weekend, customers can pick Cameo, Red Delicious and Stayman varieties.

'Mixed' season: And although last weekend's 9 inches of rain closed down Forge Hill Orchards in East Manchester Township for a couple of days, it didn't really affect the apple crop, said Donna Wiley, who works in the storeroom.

"We have a good crop," she said.

Changes in weather patterns have pushed the apple season up a bit sooner in recent years, Wiley said. And with a large variety of apples available for picking, it's altogether a pretty good season, she said.

"We have a wonderful orchard here -- it's beautiful," Wiley said. "People just love to come pick the apples."

Weather conditions throughout the whole year affect the apple harvest in the fall, said Barron Shaw, manager of Shaw Orchards in Hopewell Township. Some frost damage in the spring limited the crop, and a wet summer made it hard to control disease, but it was mostly a favorable year, he said.

"Most of the crop made it through that just fine," Shaw said.

At the orchard, the Red Delicious in particular was a short, slight crop this year, whereas other varieties came in pretty well, he said.

"I'd say it's mixed," Shaw said of this season.

But there's some good news: The crop is large and tasty, and prices are lower this year after last year's Midwestern freeze caused prices to hike , Shaw said.

And now that we're about 75 percent through the picking season, Yorkers have about two weeks to hand-pick their apples right off the tree, Shaw said. The Fuji variety just became ready to pick, he said.

"Apples grow on trees, but once they're picked, they're gone," he said. "So now we just need to bring it on home and get the apples off the trees"

Stinky problem: And Yorkers are likely familiar with another one of the challenges in the growing season: stink bugs.

The Asian imports are more than a residential nuisance -- they're an agricultural pest, getting into apples and peaches, Shaw said.

"They feed on fruit and make little picking marks," he said.

Because of sorting, customers never see the damaged crops, Shaw said. But the bugs cause losses for the orchard, which cannot sell the apples for a good price, he said.

Shaw took over the business this year, so he said it's his first time witnessing stink bug damage firsthand -- only in recent years have the bugs started to become a pest in the area.

"It's just another one of those challenges that my dad didn't have to worry about, but I do," he said.

Since it's his first year managing the orchard, he said he couldn't say whether the stink bugs are growing in numbers -- but other growers can.

"The consensus with growers is that the problem is getting worse," Shaw said.

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Take your pick

Apples are available at a fruit farm near you:

---Bentzel's Orchard, 21 N Lewisberry Road, Dillsburg, 766-5160

---Blevins Fruit Farm, 16222 W Liberty Road, Stewartstown, 993-2885

---Brown's Orchards, 8892 Susquehanna Trail South, Loganville, 428-2036

---Flinchbaugh's Orchards, 110 Ducktown Road, Hellam, 252-2540

---Forge Hill Orchards, 135 Blossom Drive, Mount Wolf, 266-1206

---Lehman Orchards, 1918 Powder Mill Road, York, 741-3704

---Maple Lawn Farms, 2885 New Park Road, New Park, 1-866-U-PICK-FUN

---Paulus Orchards, 522 East Mount Airy Road, Dillsburg, 432-2544

---Shaw Orchards, 21901 Barrens Road South, Stewartstown, 382-8879

---Triple "A" Dwarf Acres, 365 Forge Hill Road, Manchester, 266-4624

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--Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdis patch.com.