After bitter winter, anxiety filled spring, Wilson’s Orchard is ready for picking

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — It’s been a wild and wacky weather year, going from record lows in January to record heat in July and it’s certainly had an effect on farmers.

The effects of the weather were especially felt at farmers that aren’t seasonal, like Wilson’s Apple Orchard.

Co-owner, Paul Rasch said the drop to below-freezing temperatures, followed by a cool spring delayed their harvest.

At Wilson’s Orchard in Iowa City they have about 120 varieties of apples growing on the 60 plus acre sprawling farmland. The harvest for some of those trees was delayed by almost two weeks this year.

“It’s kind of like a Golden Delicious but bursting with flavor, It’s more crunchy than a Golden Delicious,” said Rasch as he described Ginger Golds, one of the apples currently ready for picking.

From winter nights with temperatures below twenty to a week-long heat advisory. It was a tough year, about 50 to 60 trees were lost during the bitter winter.

“We have less and less confidence about what to expect. It just seems like normal years don’t come anymore,” said Rasch.

The weather this year Rasch sweating, they were worried the bitter nights may have damaged the tree buds, which are next seasons fruit. He also says the apple tree bloom lasted much longer than expected.

“Any farmer knows the anxiety that goes into growing a crop and that’s kind of part of the program. We’ve certainly had our share of that this year,” said Rasch.

Despite the ups and downs, rows of trees were full of apples, from Ginger Golds, Burgundies, Summer Treat, and Sansas.

“For whatever reason, maybe it’s the combination of early wet and lots of heat late, we’re getting really strongly-flavored fruit. It’s kind of a perfect storm of fruit flavor for us,” said Rasch.

The apples weren’t bitter about the conditions. According to Rasch they’re bigger, bolder, and more flavorful this year and guests like young Logan agreed.

“Last year they were a little more dry, this year they’re a little more juicy,” said Logan who was there with his family.

After getting pushed about two weeks behind schedule, the orchard is back on track thanks to a couple of weeks of warm weather. Now, they’re ready for visitors to help pick the hundreds of ripe apples.

“You can get more than just apples inside and pick what flavors, and they’re all different,” said Logan.

“It’s just a great place to come let your kids be kids, turn your screens off, and enjoy a little piece of heaven,” said Rasch.

Wilson’s Orchard also grows pumpkins and this year they’re planted strawberries.

They’re also well known for their cidery and baked goods. Rasch said they’re looking forward to more warm days and cool nights to keep the apple trees in good condition.

Ashley Neighbor

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids
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