Growers look forward to fall

With challenges of hot, wet summer behind them, area farmers prepare for autumn festivities

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With the first day of autumn right around the corner, local farms and growers are preparing for fall — and all of the festivities that come with it. They are also hopeful to be done with the challenges that this summer brought for many area growers.

North Star Orchard co-owner George Joseph said it was one of the wettest years the Westmoreland operation has seen in a long time — which meant many different things for their wide range of crops. “We grow everything from asparagus to Christmas trees,” Joseph said. “This wet summer gave us some challenges, but it also has had some benefits. One of our crops is blueberries, and all this rain has made them big and plentiful.”

There was a lot of mowing too across the apple orchards thanks to the rain, but Joseph said it feels the apple crop this year is going to be good. “Most fruit is mostly water, so we’re going to have some really nice size apples this year,” he said. “We start our U-Pick apples Sept. 18, and we’ll carry that right into October.”

Joseph added that North Star had developed enough acreage that they’ve got more variety of apples, including macintosh, galas, and empires among other varieties. Fresh apple cider is being sold now and U-Pick pumpkins at North Star Orchards will start the first week of October.

“We’re looking forward to a really good fall,” Joseph said. North Star Orchards, 4741 Route 233, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For information, call 315-853-1024 or visit northstarorchard.com.

Over at Olney’s Flowers, 2002 N. James St.,owner William Olney said the heavy rainfall affected them positively and negatively.

“We start a lot of our crops indoors, so we cheat when it comes to weather. It’s expensive, but it gives us a buffer,” Olney said.

“But then things do still move outside, and we had to change up how we were fertilizing,” Olney said.

There were a few issues with some varieties of flowers early on, and a willow farm was flooded. But Olney said they were able to work around it and some crops benefitted from the excess rain.

“But all in all, we’re in pretty good shape, and we’re chugging along,” Olney said. He added they were able to work around the excess rain, and some crops benefitted from it.

“We have a huge [chrysanthemums] crop that saw 10 inches more than it would normally have — but we made a lot of growing changes, and I think it’s the nicest crop we’ve grown in years,” he said. “The weather wasn’t kind, but we managed to figure it out.”

For the fall, Olney said, besides the mums coming in, they have a poinsettia crop growing, alongside kale, echinacea, rudbeckia, black-eyed Susans, and more. Raspberries are ready right now, and a whole host of fruit trees are readying up for fall.

“We’ve planted a lot of perennials for next year, and they’re just getting moved outside this week,” Olney said. “And come fall, we’ve got a wide variety of poinsettias. And come winter, we’ll be doing our own wreaths.”

Olney’s is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 315-339-6000 or www.olneysflowers.com in Rome,

At Will’s Cackleberry Castle Pumpkin Farm, 1175 Hillsboro Road in Camden, co-owner Misty Will Portner said their farm had some ups and downs this past summer. “This summer was a rollercoaster ride, but luckily we fertilize heavily, and that helps with either drought or too much rain,” Portner said. “And living on a hill helps with drainage, but we were right on the line of having too much water.”

Portner said they plant on several different fields, and they all seem to get different weather. With one close to the nearby creek, heavy rains meant it was wetter than usual.

“The corn has been taller than it ever has been before,” she continued. “We did have a bit of a deer problem, but we’ve been handling it. I’m just hoping that come this fall, we don’t have nearly as much rain as we did this past summer.”

Cackleberry Castle offers all the usual fall festivities children look forward to, from hayrides and walks through the cornfield to petting zoos and outdoor movies. Portner said they’re open regardless of the weather, but it’s definitely better when the sun is shining, and the weather is nice.

Come this fall, Cakcleberry Castle will have all manner of pumpkins for sale. From the smallest pie pumpkins to massive ones meant for carving, they’ll be at Cackleberry Castle alongside white pumpkins, several different kinds of squash, and more.

While summer this year had its ups and down for farmers across New York, they’re all looking forward to the fall.

Cackleberry Castle is open Thursday and Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit 315-245-0104 or visit www.cackleberrycastle.com.

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