By Kimberly Griffin
The way that winter changes into spring almost always takes a completely different turn by the time mid-summer changes into fall. This past spring was cold, long, and actually somewhat dry. If you recall, there was virtually no mud season. We even had a late frost in the final weeks of May.
I recall talking with fellow growers, our hands in the air, wondering when the weather might break and what kind of season it would turn out to be. Slowly, the calendar pages turned. June began to warm, a very wet July gave way to a record-approaching dry August, and field crops thrived. What a year for winter squash, peppers, tomatoes, and other late-season fruits!
Why am I writing this review of the last eight months? All of the days we’ve seen, be they cold, dry, hot, or wet have culminated to bring us to today. All of the leaf buds and flower blossoms, bumble bees, and gentle breezes have come together to create conditions that make us say, “Have you ever seen an apple tree so laden in fruit?”
Yes, apples. The quintessential fall fruit that we find in pies and in jars, pressed for cider, and bobbed for at parties. This fall seems to be simply bursting in apples. From wild, unkempt roadside trees to beautifully maintained orchards, apples are everywhere this year.
Given the bounty of apples this year, many organizations have helped harvest surplus apples for donation. These programs help community members, who might not otherwise be able to afford them, have access to fresh, healthy apples.
Between the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link’s Glean Team and Salvation Farms’ efforts, nearly 10,000 pounds of apples have been captured and donated in our region over the past six weeks. That is a lot of apples!
Mendon Mountain Orchards, located just east of Rutland on Route 4, has opened their fields to many volunteer groups looking to harvest apples for others. The orchard is one of 20 throughout the state participating in the Vermont Foodbank’s “Pick for your Neighbor” program, which is a campaign to increase the amount of fresh, healthy produce for distribution to Foodbank partner agencies. For a full list of orchards participating this year, visit www.vtfoodbank.org.
Last week, students from College of St. Joseph took to the trees of Mendon Mountain Orchards for a pick-your-own adventure, hauling in about 70 pounds of beautiful, fresh fruit. Half of that haul was immediately sent to the Vermont Foodbank, while the other half came back to campus to be made into applesauce. The applesauce was then donated to local organizations such as the Women’s Shelter, Community Cupboard, and Open Door Mission.
I count myself as fortunate to live in a place so full of food. I also have to remind myself to not take for granted the seasonal changes that take place all around me in order for that food to flourish. Whether you are an apple eater or not, take a moment this fall to appreciate the sweet, crisp air above and the crunch of leaves below.
If you find yourself in an orchard, perhaps pick a few extra for a neighbor in need. There are plenty to pick this year!
Kimberly Griffin is the Farm Manager and Wellness Coordinator at College of St Joseph, working with staff, faculty, and students to eat, move, and live healthier. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.