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Local farmers optimistic on apple crop this year

This time last year it was unusually warm, which started the apple growing season early.

But a few untimely frosts resulted in one of the most devastating years on record for apple crops in the La Crosse area.

This year, it's no secret the colder temperatures and the snow made for a much more normal winter.

Farmers in the La Crosse area say they are very optimistic for a good apple crop this year.

But even so, it still may be hard for some farmers to make up for last year's losses.

TheĀ  sound of snow melting and the sight of pruning shears is a good sign this time of year.


"This is the way winter and spring's suppose to be," said Tom Ferguson, owner of Ferguson Morningside Orchard in Galesville.

With last year's unseasonably warm winter, Ferguson knew he was in for a tough growing season.

"We already had several days in the 80s and the leaves were already popping out on the trees and at that time we already knew we were doomed because just with normal April temperatures frost was inevitable," said Ferguson.

An early frost killed 90 percent of his apple crop last year.

"We survived. We didn't make any money," Douglas Shefelbine, owner of Shelfelbine Orchard and Pumpkin Patch in Holmen.

Shelfelbine's orchard was also hit hard.

The business never even opened for the season.

But so far this year, owner Doug Shefelbine says the weather has been on his side.

"The trees came through the winter OK, the fruit buds came through on the trees, we haven't had the real warm weather that we did last year so we've got a chance of having a crop," said Shefelbine.

Both farmers are optimistic for a good apple season.

"We're much happier than we were this time last year," said Ferguson.

"We'll have apples to sell, and we'll hopefully sell twice as many 'pick your own' as we did two years ago," said Shefelbine.

But even with a good crop outlook, it may be a while yet before these farmers can fully recover from last year.

"It kind of evens out after a while," said Shefelbine.

"In some ways it will take us a few years to recover from that but it's the kind of thing where we expect, it's farming so we do expect to get hit every once in a while." said Ferguson.

Ferguson says it's been nearly 70 years since they've had a crop as devastating as last year.

Even though apple farmers are not in the clear yet from a late frost, they are confident they'll be OK.

In fact, they tell us the biggest threat to their crop this spring would likely be hail damage.

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