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California: Few apples for picking in Julian in state’s driest year

Julian still has historic charm but apples are in short supply this fall because of the drought.
(Julian Chamber of Commerce )

At this time of year, apple orchards in Julian should be booming with visitors who want to pick a basket or two. But in this driest year on record, most apple orchards in the mountain town northeast of San Diego are closed, and apples are in short supply.

“We’re not even going to open,” Colin Young, owner of the Calico Ranch Orchard, told KPCC-FM (89.3) on Monday. “The orchard is really parched.”

Places such as Apple Starr Orchards, Rocking H Farms and other orchards have closed for the season because of the small and early harvest due to the drought. Apples ripened in late August at some orchards.

Apples and Arts Orchard is open to groups only. “We have a waiting list to make sure we have apples for those who have already signed up,” Arlene Smith of Apples and Arts said by email. Volcan Valley Apple Farm is one of the few orchards that remains open to the public.

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“It’s sad because so many people want that apple-picking experience,” said Krisie Morgan, office manager at the Julian Chamber of Commerce. She said she’s been fielding lots of phone calls from people who want to know when to come and whether they’ll be able to visit orchards.

What does she tell them? Though orchards are closed, come anyway. First off, she said, the famous Julian apple pies will still be available. (Many of the pie makers have their own orchards they don’t open to the public.)

Second, the Julian Apple Days Festival this weekend draws one of the biggest crowds of the year. “That doesn’t even need apples,” Morgan said of the two-day event. “It’s kind of like an old-fashioned country fair.”

A pie-eating contest, hay rides, an antique tractor display, gold-panning demonstrations (Julian had its own gold rush in the late 19th century) and other activities will take place despite the drought.

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Apple Days dates to 1907 when Julian won the Wilder Medal from the American Pomological Society, its website says. The event became an annual celebration of the apple harvest -- even though this year’s was poor.


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