Jonamac Orchard ends You Pick early

By Taylor Thanos

Malta | Jonamac Orchard, 19412 Shabbona Road in Malta, shut down pick-your-own apples (You Pick) to the public early this year due to harvesting patterns.

Jerry McArtor, one of the Jonamac Orchard owners, has been involved in harvesting apples for over 37 years and has never seen a crop end this early.

“The hot summer has made our apples ready for picking two weeks ahead of the yearly average,” McArtor said.

The orchard did have one of its largest crowds ever in September to enjoy You Pick. The summer weather created a good quality and wide variety of apples to choose from. The loss of You Pick, however, has caused a loss in customers.

“Usually the first two to three weeks in October a lot of people come to the orchard for You Pick but now a lot of customers are not coming during this time,” McArtor said.

Due to the hot summer and what farmers call “heating degrees,” apples and other crops in Illinois have experienced this early harvesting effect.

Thomas Sims, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the NIU Department of Biological Sciences, said he believes that the early harvesting is an effect from weather patterns of last spring.

“This year, there was an earlier than normal ‘bud-break’ for most apple trees [when they begin to leaf out], by about two to three weeks,” Sims said. “That, combined with a lot of rain, heat and humidity shifted the whole growth process so that apples were ripe and ready for harvest earlier than in past years.”

Sims said the chemicals released in the air are a main factor in the temperature increase during the spring season.

“We are undergoing a long-term increase in global temperatures, primarily due to the amount of carbon dioxide that is being produced from the burning of fossil fuels accumulating in the atmosphere,” Sims said.

Other orchards, like Jonamac, in the area have shut down their you pick activities for the season but their are a few still open.

Valley Orchard, 811 E. State St. in Cherry Valley, is offering You Pick through this weekend. Jean Johnson, staff member at Valley Orchard, has noticed the “tremendous crowds” coming to the orchard over the past two weekends.

“We did harvest early this year and had a variety of delicious yellow and rune apples,” she said. “Even with the early harvest, however, we are still offering you pick.”