WATERTOWN, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota apple orchards are reaping the benefits of a bumper crop this season, yet one grower in Watertown won’t see the full harvest.
A July tornado wiped out half the crop at Luceline Orchard but the real hit to business came months later.
All around Luceline Ochard the fruit is ready for harvest.
“It was a bumper crop. Every orchard has had a plethora of apples,” Abby Pawelk of Luceline Orchard said.
The problem is this year Abby Pawelk and her family haven’t seen the demand.
“We’ve had a number of emails of people asking, ‘Are you open? Do you have apples? What’s going on there?'” Abby said.
This Watertown orchard has a public perception problem that started on July 18.
“You couldn’t even walk through the yard at the house,” Abby said. “It was horrible because it’s our whole life that we put into it.”
Rick Pawelk woke up to find the damage left behind by weather. A tornado took 50 percent of his orchard. Five thousand trees were gone in minutes.
“It was a tangled mess of broken apple trees,” Rick Pawelk said. “You kind of sit there and are numb for the first hour or so.”
Little did the Pawelk family know that the real damage would come later. The storm left many with the impression that the entire orchard was gone, hitting business during the busiest time of the year.
“I would say upwards of 35 to 40 percent down from sales,” Abby said.
Yet for those who visit, the fruit-bearing trees offer something not found at other orchards. When a tree is damaged, the remaining fruit gets all the added nutrients causing it to grow unusually large.
“One good thing is apple trees are pretty resilient, and the trees we had left just produced a bigger apple,” Rick said.
The Pawelk family plans to replant their loss. They just never knew the healthy apples would take a hit too.
“We have tons of apples and that’s the message we’re trying to get out,” Abby said.
Rick said the crop wasn’t insured, which isn’t uncommon for orchards. The Luceline Orchard is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information, head to Luceline Orchard’s website.