EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – While some industries are struggling due to COVID-19, some local businesses are seeing a slight economic bump. First News at Nine’s Denton Postlewait explains how some western Wisconsin apple orchards are rebounding after a slow start.
For Leffel Root Apple Orchard in Eau Claire, their livelihood was in question after a slow start to the season, but not for the reason you might think.
Laura Leffel, owner of Leffel’s Apple Orchard said, “We, unfortunately, had about half the apples that we normally do because we had a late spring frost kind of hurt some of the blossoms.”
Fifteen minutes away, another orchard was facing an uphill battle for different reasons.
Ronald Knutson owner of Avenue Orchard said, “We’re not so sure we were hit by the frost at this orchard, yet we just didn’t get any pollination. We had plenty of blossoms on the trees.”
More people are visiting orchards this year with people spending more time outside due to the pandemic. It has turned what the orchards thought would be a difficult year, into a great one.
“Our sales are up about probably, I don’t know, about 50%. We’ve had lots of people come out and the weather has been just amazing for apple orchards. No rain and normally by now, we’ve had a little snow,” said Leffel.
Knutson said, “It’s been short and sweet. We had a lot of fewer apples this year than we would like. Thanks to the great customer support we’ve got, we’re fast running out of the apples that we do have.”
Because of that short season, the orchards have ended the pick-your-own apple option, but both Avenue and Leffel Roots have added products that have also helped drive business this season.
Knutson said, “We’re quite busy at avenue orchard. This year we managed to get our processing licensee, so we are even reaching out and getting into local stores.”
Leffel said, “This year we have our kitchen and we added donuts, so we have cider donuts now which have been a big hit. We’ve sold thousands of donuts so far, which has been surprising.”
Both Leffel and Knutson say if you haven’t had a chance to visit an orchard, time is running out.
“We only have two weekends left after this one, so if you haven’t come out, now is the time. Don’t wait,” said Leffel.
“We are keeping the store open until we sell the last apple, so to speak. Which could be today,” said Knutson.
In Eau Claire County, Denton Postlewait, First News at Nine.