VA Dept of AgricultureRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia agriculture officials say they’re optimistic about this fall’s apple crop. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says this year’s crop is reading for picking and among the best the state has produced in years. The state’s growers have been harvesting apples since August, when the earliest varieties started ripening. Federal officials anticipate Virginia apple production to total 180 million pounds. Orchards will pick Virginia apples through November. Virginia is home to more than 150 commercial apple growers, as well as many pick-your-own farms that sell directly to the consumer.