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Minnesota Apple Orchards Endure Labor Shortage During Peak Season

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) -- It's peak apple picking season, and as visitors return to their favorite apple orchard, they may notice fewer activities being offered.

To kick off the fall season, many families spent their weekend at Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake admiring the big red fruits.

"Maybe once a year, it's always kind of fun just to get fresh apples off the trees. And then of course here they have the apple donuts, which are really good," said John Carlson of Blaine.

Pine Tree Apple Orchard
(credit: CBS)

This year, returning families noticed a lighter crowd than usual. Pine Tree Apple Orchard Production Manager Bill Jacobson said last year more people resorted to the orchard due to the pandemic.

"This year it seems there's, you know, a little bit less. You know, more church festivals are happening and other things, so there's a little more competition for the recreation scene," Jacobson said.

Nonetheless, foot traffic remains busy with an unusual setback. Jacobson said Pine Tree has one of the best wagon rides around. Unfortunately, those are not being offered on the weekends anymore due to labor shortage.

"For tractor drivers, it takes a special person and some special skills. But it's always been a little of a challenge but not impossible like it seems like it's been this year," said Jacobson.

Live music on weekends will also be limited. Jacobson said help is needed most at the cash registers. However, once peak harvest ends, they'll have a solid staff for the remainder of the season.

Apple orchards across the state are experiencing the same problem. Applewood Orchard in Lakeville announced last weekend they were not giving hayrides because of staffing. Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings also decided to postpone the opening of their corn maze.

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