Henderson County orchards are renowned for their plentiful apple yields, but this season they’ve faced a challenge in the form of a spring freeze.
Terry Kelley, county Cooperative Extension director and a crop agent, said the freeze Western North Carolina experienced in April will certainly affect the yield of this season’s crop. 
The crop suffered two significant incidents, according to Kelley. The first was manageable, but coupled with the second – a series of multiple nights in late April where the temperature fell to the low 20s – the weather inflicted substantial damage. 
«Fortunately that’s not something that happens every year,» Kelley said. «It’s been several years since we’ve probably had this much damage.»
While there may not be the usual surplus of apples, many of the farms and orchards still have much to offer, from dozens of apple varieties, cider and baked goods to fun activities and scenic picnic areas. 
Some orchards and fruit stands are already open, and many others are planning to open over the next few weeks. 
«Everybody was affected to some degree,» Kelley said of the freeze. «But I think you’ll find most everybody has some apples. There’s apples here.» 
Grandad’s Apples N’ Such, one of the larger orchards in the area, will not be offering u-pick this season on account of the freezes. The orchard offers roughly 20 varieties of apples, though only three offer the possibility for u-pick.
«We just don’t have them to offer,» said Leslie Lancaster, family farmer. «Some varieties are plentiful and some are not.» 
Grandad’s Apples N’ Such does still offer many many baked goods including cookies, cakes, pies and its famous hand-rolled doughnuts. 
«With the freeze, we’re just trying to take it slow,» Lancaster said. 
Family-operated Holt Orchards sells its apples but does not offer u-pick, given that the small family oversees the orchard themselves. 
«Because we had those two really cold nights back in April, in Henderson County, 70% of the apples are just gone,» said Tracy Cavagnaro, one of Holt Orchard’s proprietors.
As summer ends and the fall begins, Holt Orchards brings its wares to the Greenville market in South Carolina and opens the apple season to the public.
«People tell us, ‘We’re done with the circus. We want to go somewhere that’s a little less crazy,’ and that’s kind of what we have to offer,» Cavagnaro said.
Although there are apples on the trees, where there typically are hundreds there are now only a few. 
«The demand is going to be there and the supply is not going to be,» Cavagnaro said. 
For Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, another family-owned-and-operated farm in Henderson County, the late start to the season is due to the April freeze.
According to Mike Stepp, the orchard is reporting roughly 20% of its usual crop. 
«I’ve heard that countywide at one time they were saying it’s about 80% of a freeze-out,» Stepp said. «Nearly everyone received a lot of damage.»
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard offers jar goods, doughnuts, hay rides and a corn maze. Despite the loss of crop, they are still able to offer more than 20 varieties of apples.
Justus Orchard offers 24 varieties of apples, certain varieties having been affected by the spring freeze. However, the orchard also offers a variety of summer activities, including apple canons, jumping pillows and a cow train, for visitors to enjoy. 
Other orchards, such as Jeter Mountain Farms, fared favorably under the difficult weather. Jocelyn Hunsader of Jeter Mountain Farms said their fairly new orchard is still able to offer u-pick this season, despite the freeze. 
«Our crops are looking very good,» Hunsader said. «We will be able to do full u-pick as normal this year; we got very fortunate.»
Since Jeter Mountain Farms operates at a slightly higher elevation than other orchards, its crop matured later than others, narrowly missing the brunt of the freeze. 
Offering more than 23 varieties of apples, Jeter Mountain Farms also debuted an original hard cider last year. Its newest attraction is a 6,000-foot indoor play area for children. 
For websites, directions and more information on Henderson County’s farms, check out visithendersonvillenc.org
Opening dates 
Fruit of the Spirit Orchard and Vineyard: Open, 756 Dalton Trail Drive, Hendersonville; https://thefruitofthespiritorchard.webs.com/
Grandad’s Apples & Such: Aug. 12, https://grandadsapples.com/
Holt Orchards: Open, www.holtorchards.com/
Jeter Mountain Farm: Open weekends in August, 1126 Jeter Mountain Road, Hendersonville; www.jetermountain.com/
Justus Orchard: Early August, 187 Garren Road, Hendersonville; https://justusorchard.com/
Lively Orchards: August, 1115 Upward Road, Flat Rock; www.facebook.com/Lively-Orchards-597251397131034
Lyda and Sons Family Orchard: www.facebook.com/lydaandsons
Mountain Fresh Orchards: Aug. 20, 2887 Chimney Rock Road, Hendersonville; https://mtnfreshorchards.com/
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard: Aug. 13, 170 Stepp Orchard Drive, Hendersonville; https://steppapples.com/
Sky Top Orchard: Aug. 6, Pinnacle Mountain Road, Flat Rock; http://skytoporchard.com/
Have an orchard to add to the list? Email information to Editor Jennifer Heaslip at jennifer.heaslip@blueridgenow.com. 


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