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REGIONALREPORT Western

Bummer crop

How important are apples to Henderson County? A red-skinned beauty is prominently featured on its logo. Even more noteworthy is the $28 million the crop generated for Henderson farmers in 2011. So a late freeze that ruined between 70% and 80% of the harvest this year — worst since 1955 — was particularly damaging. “There are many orchards that have no apples at all. I have several that are that way,” says Adam Pryor, president of Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association. His family owns Hilltop Farms in Hendersonville. “Countywide, it’s not unrealistic to think of about a $10 million loss.”

A spike in prices due to an East Coast apple shortage will lessen the loss. Marvin Owings, director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Henderson, predicts juice and processing apples will jump about 100% per pound from last year, and fresh produce will go for $20-$40 a bushel, up from $18-$29. “Some of the prices we’re hearing are some of the highest we’ve ever seen,” he says. “We just don’t know the fallout until the end of the season.”

But the state will produce fewer apples. Packagers will need to bring in more from Pennsylvania — the lone East Coast state not significantly hurt by weather — to meet retail demand. The North Carolina Apple Festival, which draws more than 200,000 to Hendersonville over Labor Day weekend, will have less variety and quantity. Pryor adds that Henderson markets will run out sooner than usual this season, which goes until October. “I would not wait very long.”


Briefs

FOREST CITY Valley Fine Foods will open an East Coast manufacturing plant here, creating 305 jobs within three years. The Benicia, Calif.-based company makes gourmet pasta dishes such as ravioli, tortellini and gnocchi. Average annual salary will be $31,636, higher than Rutherford County’s $29,172.

JEFFERSON — Denver-based Gates Corp. will close its hydraulic tubing plant here by Sept. 8, laying off 83 workers. The closure comes as the industrial engineering and manufacturing company consolidates plants.

ASHEVILLE — A judge ordered former Bank of Asheville President George Gordon “Buddy” Greenwood to pay more than $9 million in restitution after being convicted on fraud charges earlier this year and sentenced to four years in prison (Regional Report, June). Nearly $5.9 million is to be paid to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as the receiver for failed Bank of Asheville and about $3.3 million to Queens Gap Holding Co., which was building an upscale housing development and golf course.