UNION COUNTY, S.D. (KCAU) — Fall is underway in Siouxland, but farmers are still feeling side-effects from the summer drought.
Apple trees in Siouxland need roughly six inches of rain and a local apple farmer said this year’s rainfall hasn’t even come close to that.
Tony Heisterkamp and his wife own Eden Valley Apple Orchard and Aronia Farm. He said his 2,000 apple trees have only received about two inches of rain since May. That hurts the quantity and size of his crops.
“The lack of rain definitely doesn’t allow the apples to fill out, so they’re not as big as what they normally are and because of the lack of rain, the tree will naturally abort some of the apples just to keep that tree alive,” he said.
Heisterkamp said the apples are roughly 30%-40% smaller compared to previous years with sufficient rainfall. Trees aren’t the only living things affected by this drought. He said when rain is scarce, unwelcome pests are more prevalent at his orchard.
“When we have a lack of rain, and of course the apples contain a lot of moisture, so we do have a little bit more insect pressure on the apples,” he said. “We’re an all-organic orchard, so we don’t spray any pesticides to get rid of the bugs. We have a lot of bees on the farm. We don’t want to hurt them either.”
During a dry summer, one of the only things Heisterkamp can do is remove the smaller apples so they don’t take moisture away from the larger ones.
“That would probably be the biggest challenge that we have here as a family farm is it takes a tremendous amount of time to pick apples off the tree to make sure the ones that remain, we get a really good size,” he said.
He said the upcoming weekend is the last weekend that will be open for the public to pick apples and then he’ll harvest the remaining crops. The orchard is open for the public to pick apples and berries at 11 a.m. on Saturday as well as 1 p.m. on Sunday.