Bumper Crop awaits pick-your-own apple enthusiasts

BELMONT — Pick-your-own apple season is in full swing and there's still plenty of varieties available at local orchards, which are experiencing a bumper crop year on pace to exceed the 807,000 bushels harvested statewide two years ago.
''It's the best I've seen in 30 years here,'' says Rob Richter of Smith Orchard in Belmont, who says that he is at a loss to explain why this year has been so much better than other years.
''We're in touch with all of the apple growers around the state and they're saying the same thing, an abundant crop with lots of large apples, no disease or weather damage. I know it's not very scientific but I almost think that it has something to do with having an old-fashioned winter with lots of cold and snow,'' says Richter.
Last year Smith Farm was named a New Hampshire Farm of Distinction and the award was presented to Richter and his wife Wende by Governor Maggie Hassan and N.H. Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill at the N.H. Farm and Forest Expo in Manchester.
The Richters have owned and operated the farm, which offers a variety of apples including McIntosh, Macoun and Cortland, since 1985.
Rob says that he and his wife view themselves as the caretakers of a long tradition of apple growing at the orchard, which still has many of the original McIntosh and Cortland trees planted by Charlie Smith in 1928, when he was entering his senior year at the University of New Hampshire.
He says that the 15-acre field which was planted by Smith, who was a long-time Laconia City Council member, had originally been an open pasture across the road from a large farmhouse on Leavitt Road. The farmhouse burned and was replaced by a smaller home the Smith family built.
Over the years Smith hired crews of workers to pick the apples but by the 1950s, when only the reddest fruit was considered acceptable for sale and there was no wholesale market for the rest, Smith made the novel step of opening his orchard to sell directly to the public, becoming what may have been the very first "pick-your-own'' operation in the entire state.
"He told us he made more selling that way than he did on the wholesale market. And it became very popular with people coming here and picking the orchard clean every year," says Rob.
There's even a story about the tradition of opening the orchard on a Friday. Smith told the Richters that he had so many complaints from local people that out-of-staters were flocking to the orchard and getting the best apples when it opened on a Saturday that he decided to open it a day earlier so that local people would enjoy the first picking.
As the older, full-size trees are lost to old age, (some 250 remain) the Richters are replacing them with dwarf and semi-dwarf trees and now have some 3,000 apple trees.
At the Surowiec Farm on Perley Hill Road in Sanbornton this year's crop is phenomenal, according to Katie Surowiec, who says that Macintosh, Cortland and Ginger Gold are now being picked.
The seven acre orchard which her husband Steve planted in the 1980s, also grows Macoun, Gala, Empire and Honey Crisp, but those varieties aren't part of the pick-your-own operation and won't be until the semi-dwarf trees grow a little more.
There are pre-picked apples available in the farms' farm stand, which will be open through November and December and features greens and vegetables grown in the farm's greenhouses throughout the colder months of the year.
At Stonybrook Farm in Gilford the 12-acre apple orchard has about 2,000 trees, with a dozen different varieties including; MacIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Ginger Gold, and Red Delicious.
The farm offers rides in and out of the orchard on weekends and its farmstand has a wide selection of mums and pumpkins for fall decorating. It also offers homemade apple cake and fresh pressed cider.
Cardigan Mountain Orchard in Alexandria also has had an excellent year according to Nancy Bleiler, who says that Macoun, McIntosh and Cortalnd are now being picked.
''There are a lot of apples this year. Some were a little smaller than we would have liked but the Cortlands are really large, as big as grapefruit.'' says Bleiler.
She and her husband Steve moved to this small country town in the late 70s with no intention of being apple farmers, they were both teachers when they made the trek up to New Hampshire. After finding this small farm, they bought it with the intention of just trying to get some apples off of the trees for their own personal enjoyment. Over 20 years later, they both have left their careers in teaching and are now focusing their attention on the farm full time,with the help of their now three adult sons.
The orchard was very run down when the Bleilers first acquired it. After a lot of hard work, they were able to bring back almost all of the original trees and many more have since been planted. The total number of trees today numbers around 1,000.
They have 15 different varieties of apples and are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Cardigan Mountain Orchard joined with local farmers, vendors, business people and residents to open Cardigan Country Store two year ago. They offer a wide range of fruits and vegetables, milk and cheeses as well as many handcrafted products.
Pies, jams, apple butter and other homemade products are available in the seasonal store in the fall.

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Hit & run in Walmart parking lot alleged

GILFORD — Police are investigating a hit-and-run that occurred around 6:15 p.m. last night on a cross-walk at Walmart.

A Gilford police supervisor said a man driving a black SUV struck a female employee but left the scene after giving his name and plate number to witnesses.

He said the woman appeared to be not seriously injured but was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia by ambulance to be evaluated.

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Bemont argues Tilton's lawsuit over aquifer protection wasn't filed in timely fashion

LACONIA — The town of Belmont has filed a motion asking Superior Court to dismiss a suit brought against its Planing Board by the town of Tilton related to protection of the aquifer that roughly parallels Rte. 140 West that is a prime source of drinking water. Tilton alleges it was not properly noticed when the Belmont board took up the subject of Casella Waste System's plan to add a solid waste transfer component to the facility it operates just off the highway. 

Tilton also alleges Belmont planners failed to consider the regional impact of such a operation when they approved Casella's plan.

The motion to dismiss filed by Belmont states that Tilton's motion is untimely because an appeal of a Planning Board decision must be made within 30 days of the decision. Belmont says Tilton filed its suit on August 27 — 31 days after the July 27 decision and seven months after a decision made on January 26.

Belmont Town Attorney Laura Morgan cited RSA 677:15 and noted that Tilton's Attorney Daniel Crean did not assent to her verbal request to dismiss.

The larger issue for representatives from Tilton and Northfield is some general anxiety, which was expressed by many residents at the N.H. Department of Environmental Services public hearing and at recent public hearing for a newly developed storm-water runoff plan and a hot-load plan, that the aquifer that all three communities use for drinking water may be compromised by Casella's operation above it.

Just recently, the Tilton-Northfield Water District asked the town of Belmont to join Tilton and Northfield and reclassify the aquifer from a "potentially valuable, stratified drift aquifer" to a GAA-rating — or "delineated wellhead protection area."

Belmont Land Use Technician Rick Ball said yesterday he reached out to the DES recently for some a GAA classification and was told that a solid waste transfer station, which is the additional process requested by Casella, is not a solid waste composting or solid waste recovery facility and would be allowed in a GAA zone.

Peter Beblowski of the DES wrote that according to New Hampshire DES rulesEnv-SW 104.54 a "transfer station means a solid waste collection, storage and transfer facility, which collects, stores and transfers solid waste, including non-recyclable waste."

Beblowski added that according to Env-Or 702.19 is a "resource recovery facility means any facility engaged in an activity beyond sorting or physical volume reduction methods to treat process solid waste into a usable secondary materials or products, including, but not limited to fuel, energy or compost."

He said a solid waste facility is a potential contamination source as defined by state law but it is not a prohibited use and doesn't "trigger the requirement for a groundwater release detection permit."

Ball also said that "Belmont ( s it related to the aquifer) is currently on an every other year inspection frequency; the GAA designation requires an inspection every three years. The "broad spectrum of investigations" (cited by Tilton-Northfield Water Commission Chair Scott Davis) are exactly what we are making now — making sure people are handling contaminants appropriately by following best management practices."

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