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As autumn approaches, orchards ripe for apple picking

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources today reported the state’s apple orchards have a strong crop of lush fruit "perfect for picking," with growers boasting above average apple sizes this fall.

The season of cider and apple pies is upon us. Photo via longislandpress.com The season of cider and apple pies is upon us. Credit: Long Island Press

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources today reported the state’s apple orchards have a strong crop of lush fruit "perfect for picking," with growers boasting above average apple sizes this fall.

“Apples are symbolic of fall in Massachusetts,” said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. “Crisp weekends are perfect for apple-picking with the family and friends, as well as supporting local farmers.”

Commissioner Watson urged residents to take advantage of the many great local varieties growers produce by apple picking at Massachusetts orchards, and perusing farm stands and farmers markets.

“More than 80 percent of small farms in the Commonwealth are family-owned, which makes every purchase of local produce an important part of building community and economic growth,” said DAR marketing and agri-tourism coordinator Rick Leblanc, who visited the Big Apple Farm in Wrentham yesterday. Big Apple Farm is celebrating its 101st anniversary this year.

Massachusetts boasts more than 100 varieties of apples, including local favorites such as McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Gala and Honeycrisp. According to the United States Apple Association, apples contain no fat, cholesterol or sodium and are excellent sources of fiber, natural plant-based antioxidants and the mineral boron, which promotes healthy bones.

Take a bite out of these Massachusetts apple facts:

• There are approximately 369 apple farms in Massachusetts.
• The value of the Massachusetts apple crop in 2011 was more than $19.4 million.
• Massachusetts ranks 12th nationally for the total value of apple production. In terms of ranking by total production, Massachusetts ranks 15th.
• More than 40 percent of apple growers market their apples directly to consumers through roadside farm stands, farmers markets and pick-your-own operations.

For a list of Massachusetts apple orchards, pick-your-own apple farms, farmers markets and roadside produce stands, DAR has an easy-to-use farm finder which provides information about local farms, their locations and contact information.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
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