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Weather forces apple growers to harvest crop earlier than usual

The North Carolina Apple Festival is in a few weeks, but apple harvest is already underway. A variety of apple crops have ripened early this year because of the warm winter. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The North Carolina Apple Festival is in a few weeks, but apple harvest is already underway. A variety of apple crops have ripened early this year because of the warm winter.

Kenny Barnwell tested starch and sugar levels of his apples Monday to determine the ripeness of some of his crops.

"We had a warm spring, and they bloomed at least seven or eight days early. With the dry weather and the wet weather, it tends to make the apples mature early," said Barnwell, who owns Kenny Barnwell Orchards.

The staff is trying to harvest as much as they can, but Barnwell said they are not in the full harvest just yet.

"We still have a fair amount of Red Delicious. Sometime in the middle of September, that's traditionally when it (the harvest) is.It might be just a shade earlier," Barnwell said.

The agricultural business in Henderson County has a $600 million economic impact.

"Apple business in Henderson County is somewhere about 3 1/2 million bussles," said Barnwell.

Over the years, apple tourism has also increased. Grandad’s Apples n’ Such on Chimney Rock Road started its season July 28, after two apple varieties -- Ginger Gold and Zestar -- were harvested.

"This year, our opening day was the best day we had in 24 years, and tourism is sky high right now," owner Leslie Lancaster said.

Some of their most popular items are the cider doughnuts, along with the Honeycrisp apples that will be available Aug. 25.

"We will be packing them as fast as we can because we know they are in high demand and we want to be ready," Lancaster said.

The North Carolina Apple Festival is a four-day event that kicks off Labor Day weekend.

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