It's not fall in Indiana without a trip to the apple orchard, a hayride with family or pumpkin-picking at the local farm. Because Indiana is a state blessed with abundant agricultural resources and beautiful seasonal weather, enjoying these autumn traditions is something we Hoosiers have come to expect year after year.
This summer's crippling drought, however, left many farmers struggling with low crop yields and community members wondering if they'll have to skip the Indiana-grown apples this season.
Along with corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops, Indiana's apple harvest did suffer. According to the USDA, Indiana lost about 73 percent of its apple crop this year. Several orchards across the state have had to import apples from areas not hit as hard by extreme weather in order to stay in business this fall.
Unfortunately, the apple shortfall is only the most recent effect of poor weather conditions this spring and summer. Many farmers and agri-business owners currently face difficult financial times as they navigate through low production yields, recovery loans and crop insurance concerns.
In fact, just this week, state lawmakers and members of the agriculture community met to discuss what the drought will mean for Indiana farmers and producers in the long-term, as well as what steps can be taken now to help lessen the financial stress on Hoosier businesses and farms.
It's true our farming communities have taken a hit. But that certainly doesn't mean we can't enjoy fall favorites this season. Some Indiana apples did withstand the tough growing season and are now ready for picking. In addition, Indiana's pumpkin crop fared relatively well despite the drought. Large, healthy pumpkins can be found at most farms and grocery stores as September comes to an end – only a little later than usual.
For many of us, fall traditions are very meaningful, as they mark the start of the holiday season. But for growers and farmers, having community support during this tough time might be even more meaningful. I encourage all Hoosiers to get out during the next few weeks and spend some time with family at community orchards, U-Picks and farms.
It might be a bit more difficult or take a few extra minutes in the car, but our Indiana ventures need our help, especially those orchards that saw barren trees this season. Still make your annual visit, but perhaps purchase an autumn wreath or share a cup of hot cider instead. After all, that's what this season is ultimately about – time with family, keeping generations-old traditions alive and being part of a community.
I can't think of a better or more vital time to support these businesses so we can keep making fall memories at hometown spots for many years to come. Here are a few local orchards and farms in our area that are currently offering autumn produce and baked goods, as well as traditional fall activities such as hayrides and U-Pick pumpkin patches.
Advanced Tree Technology
12818 Edgerton Rd.
New Haven, IN
8724 Huguenard Road
Fort Wayne, IN
Hilger Family Farm
5534 Butt Road
Fort Wayne, IN
You can also visit www.in.gov/visitindiana/fall/ for festivals and farms all across the state.