Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Apple farmer Lee Walker also has noticed more falling fruit this year. He and other farmers speculate the numerous hot days this summer may be partly to blame.
“Normally we get maybe one” hot spell per summer that hovers around 100 degrees, he said. However, this year there have been several heat waves.
The Gravenstein apple crop is a mixed bag this season for Sonoma County farmers.
As they gear up for the typically short harvest, some apple farmers said they expect a good crop of the red-and-green streaked fruit, an iconic but fairly delicate local variety and the earliest to be picked in the orchards around Sebastopol.
But others report their gravs suffered from long spring rains during bloom or from prolonged heat this summer.
Joe Dutton, an apple and grape grower outside Graton, said that this season, one block of trees in an orchard shows plenty of fruit, while another nearby block didn’t fare as well.
“The microclimates are for sure showing what they can do,” said Dutton, who farms grapes and apples at Dutton Ranch with his brother, Steve Dutton. Joe Dutton called the farm’s Gravenstein crop “spotty” and advised consumers to get fresh gravs soon because “they will not last long.”
The west county is gearing up for apple season, where for decades the Gravenstein has been a staple in juices and pies.
Apples remain one of the county’s million-dollar crops, though the value lags far behind such areas as livestock, nursery products, eggs, dairy and wine. Last year, the Gravenstein crop amounted to nearly $1.6 million, while the value of late variety apples, such as Jonathans and Golden Delicious, totaled almost $3.9 million.