On this blog, I’ve been mostly talking about how the drought is affecting the corn around us. It’s also affecting our cattle. And plenty of other animals and crops. Corn and soybeans are the easiest things to see when you’re driving around… nothing like a corn field that looks dry and spindly or a soybean field that hasn’t grown taller than 12 inches in mid-August to make you take a deep breath and say a prayer.
But it’s more than just the field crops that you can see from the road. Harvests aren’t going to be very plentiful this year in most areas, which means that the supply of these grains won’t be very plentiful, either. This affects livestock who eat these feeds. This affects much of our food at the grocery store that uses corn, beans, and other grains as main ingredients.
And it affects other produce.
Lots of the discussion has focused on grains and meat, but I have not heard much about fruits and vegetables.
Last week, I helped organize and event at the Indiana State Fair called The Taste From Indiana Farms. This event was put on by the Indiana Farm Bureau and featured samples of many of the foods that are grown and produced right here in Indiana. I talked about this event earlier this week on another blog, but what I’d like to share with you here today is what I learned about how the drought affected this year’s apple crop in Indiana.
Indiana doesn’t grow many apples, but we do have some orchards. Indiana is 19th in commercial apple production. It’s not a big market for us, but there are farming families who depend on a good apple harvest in the fall.
They have also been affected by weather this year.
The warm spring seemed to be a blessing – we had a mild winter, and everything went into bloom early this year, including apple trees. Unfortunately, we had a turn of events in late April and there was a hard frost in northern Indiana. This killed many of the blossoms on the apple trees, and if you don’t have a flower, you don’t get a fruit. Many apple crops were completely wiped out by this unexpected change in the weather.
Those who missed the frost were left to contend with the drought. Few people irrigate in our area, so farmers are dependent on Mother Nature to provide rain. The apple farmers near me were very nervous in June and early July. Although there was some fruit on the trees, if they didn’t get rain soon the fruit would fall off the trees without ripening and they would have no crop this year.
Lucky for them, the weather broke a little bit in July and early August and we got a little bit of rain. Not nearly enough to break the drought, but just enough to keep the apple trees going. The apples hung onto the trees and ripened. But they are smaller than normal this year.
The apple on the left is a Gala apple from a local orchard. The apple on the right is also a Gala apple, but is from a grocery store. (The sticker on the grocery store apple says it is from Chile.)
Apples are 80% water, so it takes a lot of water to make a “regular” sized apple. With the minimal rain this year, the apples are smaller than you might expect to find. But the flavor so far has been fantastic! The trees have had the right weather to make the same sugars that normally go into larger apples, but this year the sugars are concentrated into smaller apples. Which means plenty of natural sugar and flavor packed into a smaller apple package!
While apples may be harder to find in your area, keep looking… you’ll be happy you did!
What have you noticed about fruits and vegetables in your area? Are they harder to find? Are they more expensive this season?