ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s one of those traditions of early fall. You throw some jackets on the kids, drive over in the station wagon (or the SUV, these days) to Cornell Orchards, and get your fill of some of the many wonderful apple varieties and products they offer up every year.

Well, you might want to make other plans for next year – the Cornell apple orchard store on Route 366 will be closing.

In an official statement from the university, Samara Sit, the associate dean for marketing and communications at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said “The Cornell Orchards store was managed by The Cornell Store (the school’s main department store) from July 2017 until this month. As the term of the agreement is nearing its end, The Cornell Store will no longer manage Orchards Store operations. The Cornell Orchard store will officially close for the season on Friday, January 31, 2020. The Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station is exploring options for limited apple sales in the future.”

Those limited apple sales may mean a temporary stand for a few weeks in the fall. As of this time, the plans are uncertain. Sales to wholesalers will continue.

Sales have taken place for the orchard’s pomological delights for over a century, with the store itself opening in 1952. Apples sold outside the growing season are stored in a controlled atmosphere cold room, and the university was the first place to build such a space when it was erected in the 1960s. The store also carried a variety of other local food and food accessory items from farms and food preparers across the region, from maple syrup to soap to meat products from The Piggery. However, according to university representatives, the store has also struggled financially.

In a supplemental statement, Cornell added that the store’s two full-time employees are being offered assistance in reassignment to other roles on campus. The other staff are temporary seasonal workers and “will remain in the university’s temporary employment pool.”

Cornell staff are mobilizing to petition the university to stop the closure of the store.

“This needs to be investigated and the Ithaca community needs to know this is happening. The university is trying to do this and sweep it under the rug,” said one university staff member who wished to remain anonymous.

The Cornell Orchards cover over 44 acres and are used for both the cultivation of new varieties of fruits such as apples, grapes, berries and stone fruits (cherries, peaches), and for the education of best practices in growing fruit. Over 210 tons of apples are produced annually. According to the orchard’s website, more than a thousand children visit every year to learn about fruit cultivation, cider making and learn how the apples in their lunchboxes get from seed to the fruit bowl. Research and educational operations are not affected by the closure of the store.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.