If you can find it in your cold, iced-over, Vitamin D-deprived heart, consider this: New York has three other seasons besides winter. And during those seasons, things grow here—things that aren’t blackened snow piles pocked with dog poop and uncollected garbage.
To remind you of this miracle, and give you something to peruse while it snows (yes, again), the USDA recently released the Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts Summary for 2014, a descriptively-named guide to U.S. fruit production numbers by state.
In typical New York fashion, the Empire State ranks high, coming in second in the country for apple production, and third for grapes. The news comes as New York celebrates a record agricultural sales year in 2013 and a range of other farm-based successes.
Leader of the Pack
According to the report, New York is home to 40,000 acres of apple orchards producing an estimated 1.26 billion pounds of apples in 2014. That puts New York second in the nation, a ranking it has maintained since 1996. Only Washington State produces more.
According to the New York Apple Association, there are 694 commercial apple growers in the state, who tend more than 10 million trees. These orchardists coax fruit from more than 20 varieties, from the familiar Fuji, Gala, and Golden Delicious, to the more obscure RubyFrost, Zestar, and Northern Spy. Some of these heirloom types can only be found at roadside stands or at the orchards themselves.
The NYAA estimates that 53 percent of the annual apple harvest is sold as fresh-market fruit, with the remainder being processed into juice, cider, and canned products.
A Bushel and a Peck… and a Bottle
As you might expect in a state with high apple production, New York also has a thriving hard cider industry. That’s thanks in part to a relatively new piece of legislation signed by Governor Cuomo.
The Farm Cidery law took effect in January 2014, creating a new license available to small, craft farm cideries that use crops grown exclusively in New York State. Previously, cider production was allowed only under a brewery or winery license.
The new legislation releases cider-makers from some of the more stringent restrictions placed upon brewers and winemakers, while permitting sales at farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer outlets. It also creates a market for “seconds” apples—fruit that would otherwise go to waste.
So far, 11 farm cideries in New York have been granted a license, a number which is expected to grow in coming years.
Additional legislation drafted by Senator Chuck Schumer would decrease the federal tax on hard cider to the same rate as the tax on beer (currently it is taxed at the same rate as wine).
On the Vine
Not to be outdone, New York’s grape growers also ranked high in the USDA report, coming in third in the country, behind California and Washington.
More than 37,000 acres across the state are dedicated to the production of grapes. In the wake of a very harsh winter following the best crop in the state’s history, grape growers produced 5.08 tons per acre of grapes in 2014 with crop production totaling $69.4 million.
As for other fruits, well, the Empire State’s no slouch there either: New York also ranks in the top 10 in the blueberry, peach, pear, strawberry, and sweet/tart cherries industries.