Note: Front page story in New Britain Herald
By Brenda Maguire
A cardboard sign was hung outside Rogers Orchards Friday reading, “Due to Irene we will be out of corn until Sat. 9/3/11,” but state Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky did not come to the Southington orchards for corn.
He came for the apples.
Reviczky visited Rogers Orchards to issue a proclamation from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy explaining that Connecticut will be joining Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island in recognizing September as Apple Month.
There are 90 orchards across the state that offer consumers more than 50 varieties of apples. The Connecticut apple production amounts to 9.5 million pounds and is valued at $9.3 million, while providing 2,000 jobs statewide.
“It’s important, especially this year, because the public should be assured, especially after (Tropical Storm) Irene, that there are fresh apples in Connecticut,” said John Rogers, president and manager of Rogers Orchards.
While the focus of the day was on apples, it was not lost on Reviczky that much of the state’s produce was hurt by the storm, with sweet corn taking the hardest blow in losing 50 to 60 percent of the statewide crop.
The agriculture department was still in the process Friday of assessing damage from Irene. Reviczky estimated that 10 percent of the state’s fruit was lost.
Farmers were still having trouble accessing their fields Friday, so reports will continue to come in, officials said.
Much of the crop loss was dependent on location. Areas that flooded, specifically along the Connecticut River, lost their entire crop.
The department is conducting inspections to make sure any produce that came into contact with floodwaters is not going to food markets.
Rogers and John Lyman, an owner of Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, lost between 10 to 15 percent of their apple crops due to the storm.
This does not include any fruit that may still be on the tree, but was heavily bruised by the storm.
Lyman experienced a 10 percent drop in the number of pears and peaches. He expects a 5 to 10 percent revenue loss.
Rogers and his staff, which produce 75,000 bushels of apples a year, lost 12 trees and had to prop up nearly 1,000 left tattered, leaning or fallen.
“Experience shows they will recover if you get them propped up quickly,” Rogers said.
Lyman Orchards’ storage and maintenance area was without power from Sunday to Thursday night. Luckily, he was prepared with generators so no damage was caused. But Lyman’s sunflower maze was destroyed in the storm.
Rogers took Reviczky on a tour of his orchards, which included the packing area and a drive to the apple trees where Reviczky got a chance to pick and sample an apple.
“The one thing I want to emphasize is that there are plenty of Connecticut products available and we want residents to get to their farms,” Reviczky said.
Starting today, Rogers Orchards will open its two locations at 336 Long Bottom Road and 2876 Meriden-Waterbury Road in Southington to apple picking from Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information about Rogers Orchards, phone (860) 229-4240 or go to http://www.rogersorchards.com.