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An apple a day -- for a couple of quarters -- is back via vending machine in Plant Science Building

Autumn is here, and that means those colorful Big Red apples are conveniently available again at a mere four bits a pop at the Plant Science Building.

A brand-new vending machine just for Cornell-grown apples has been installed in the building, home to the Department of Horticulture, following the early retirement last year of an aging machine.

The old machine had been a fixture in the building for years but was taken out of service during the last academic year because problems had developed with the machine and its refrigeration system, said Michelle Leinfelder, a graduate student in the Department of Horticulture.

The new machine, installed earlier this month by the department in the building's first-floor hallway, has arrived just in time for what promises to be a bountiful apple season.

Leinfelder said the vending machine, which features up to nine apple varieties for sale at 50 cents each, is used as an educational and outreach tool -- information about the apple varieties is posted on the side of the machine -- and it promotes the varieties grown at Cornell Orchards' two locations (the groves off Route 366 and a site in nearby Lansing).

Horticulture graduate students are responsible for running the machine and choosing the varieties as the apple harvest progresses.

The machine will be stocked through most of the academic year. In past years, Leinfelder said, apples were often available through May (apples kept in cold storage replenish inventory once growing season ends).

The varieties featured in the vending machine are part of a northeast land-grant university apple cultivar program called NECC-1009 (formerly known as NE-183) that evaluates apple varieties throughout the Northeast and the country. Cornell Orchards is one of three New York test plots for the cooperative program.

The vending machine right now features Sansa -- a variety Leinfelder called "a great early season variety, perhaps one of the best" -- as well as Ginger Gold, Senshu, Zestar! and Sunrise.

The machine sometimes includes unnamed varieties (like the current Cornell-bred "NY-79507-72" that boasts the Empire apple as one of its parents); other offerings include varieties originally bred at other participating cultivar program universities (such as Purdue University's Crimson Crisp), though all apples in the machine have been grown at Cornell.

More apples developed at Cornell will appear among the machine's offerings as the season continues. For example, both Empire and Liberty apples, which Leinfelder called "excellent fresh-use varieties," were bred at Cornell.

Leinfelder said the students considered raising the price of the apples but decided against it, noting that not all produce offered on campus is locally grown.

"We want to make sure we keep our local healthy snacks affordable for everybody," she said.

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