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Samples are placed for customers to try the different varieties and flavors of apples during the Athens Farmers Market. 

Local apple farmers take pride in their produce

Once the leaves start to crisp and fall from the trees, plenty of apples can be seen in marketplaces.

Alongside pastries, meats and cheeses, customers still love buying classic apples at the Athens Farmers Market.  Many customers flock to the fruit stands as their first stop through the display of wonderful sights. Several fruit vendors have rows and rows of apple varieties available, from sweet to tart to rich.

A few vendors that sell apples in Athens have been in the farming industry for decades.

Eric Wagner, owner of Wagner Fruit Farm, said the property his farm rests on has been in his family since 1938. His grandfather was one of the co-founders of Athens Farmers Market and the first vendor to sell apples there.

The farm raises more than 50 varieties of apples, including an exclusive one called Sweet Russett that only they sell at the Athens Farmers Market. However, college students and even younger customers usually visit his stand for another specific kind of apple.

“Younger people like the crisp apples,” he said. “Honeycrisp. Crimson Crisp. Autumn Crisp. Candy Crisp. Sun Crisp. You name it.”

Ohio is considered one of 10 states with the most apple production, according to the U.S. Apple Association. Ohio produces 47 million pounds of apples each season, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics from 2017. U.S. apple farmers grow about 200 unique varieties of apples with 100 of those regularly sold in retail stores, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

This year proved to be a very challenging one for some apple farmers due to climate conditions in spring and summer. Wagner produced half the apples he did in 2017. He recalls excessive rain on and off in addition to four significant frost periods, but April 18 was the worst frost.

“That was the coldest night. 25 degrees,” he said.

John Gillogly, owner of Gillogly Orchard, had a conflicting perception of the growing season. The weather can turn into a problem for apples if it’s colder enough to kill the blossoms, he said. However, much of his orchard’s 6 acres of apple trees rest on a hill, which protected the produce from late spring freezes.

Apple sales have been reasonable, with no variety of apple outshining the others, Gillogly said.

Janis Gehres, a retired Athens resident, usually does her apple shopping at Gillogly Orchard when she comes to the farmers market. She buys a few big bags each autumn and loves Gala apples. Her family enjoys eating apples because of nutrition, and they use the produce for baking and eating raw.

Gehres doesn’t visit the farmers market often, but she’d rather go there for apples anyway.

“It’s fresh. It’s local. We’re just privileged to have this kind of a market here,” she said.


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