apples

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s apple and cherry growers are happy with this year’s crop.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for apple growers. They had the worst year on record two years ago because of an early freeze. But they had the best year on record last fall, despite a major labor shortage.

dailyinvention / Creative Commons

While we were begging for winter to end, the Michigan Apple Committee was happy for the cold temperatures.

As a result, the 2014 Michigan apple crop is expected to be 28.74 million bushels. That’s about 435 million apple pies.

Diane Smith, executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said that apple trees like the cold winter. The past lengthy winter allowed for the trees to stay dormant, and not wake too early before the spring.

“The apples look beautiful, there aren't any issues, and everything’s coming along the right way,” Said Smith.

*Listen to the full interview with Diane Smith above. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been a couple of roller coaster years for the state’s fruit growers.

Michigan apple growers had the most dramatic ride. 80-degree weather in March 2012, followed by multiple freezes caused total crop failure that fall, the worst since 1945.

dailyinvention / Creative Commons

Yes, you heard that right.

See, last year was a true "annus horribilis" for apple crops - with that cold, wet spring and hot summer drought.

That led to a terrible apple harvest.

This year has brought an abundant supply, but that good news presents new challenges for Michigan growers.

Like how to store all that fruit before it goes to sale.

So, there's this technique: "lulling apples to sleep." 

*Listen to to the audio above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In West Michigan, it’s apple harvest time. That may conjure up images of picturesque orchards and old-fashioned fun. But modern technologies are playing a bigger role in the business side of the apple harvest.

Right now it’s crunch time for growers like Rob Steffens. He’s got 280 acres of apple trees in Sparta; a part of West Michigan’s fertile “fruit ridge” northwest of Grand Rapids. 

Apple orchards are changing

Michigan United

A couple dozen Michigan farmers gathered in Grand Rapids Thursday to again draw attention to a big labor shortage.

They’re calling on Congress to pass legislation that would allow guest workers to get jobs in the U-S without becoming citizens.

Don Coe is a managing partner of Black Star Farms. He grows grapes and cherries in Suttons Bay in Northwest Michigan.

“I think we could get (a guest worker program)  through except that there are ideologues with a post-9-11 mentality whose simple answer is always 'build a fence, throw them out,'” Coe said.

Michigan apple farmers desperate for pickers

Oct 5, 2013
MI Farm Bureau

The Michigan Farm Bureau is appealing across the eastern U.S. for help with finding workers to harvest the state's bumper crop of apples.

The organization sent "help wanted" postcards this week to more than 300 registered farm labor contractors, mostly in Florida and Georgia.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Rob Steffens palms a Fuji apple nearly the size of a softball in the middle of his 280-acre apple orchard near Sparta in Kent County’s “fruit ridge.”

“This block here is really going to pick heavy this year,” Steffens says, smiling at a row of stubby trees. The branches are heavy with near ripe fruit.

“This is just gorgeous size fruit on here,” he said. “It’s going to be a real shame if we can’t get this crop harvested and in the barn.”

Steffens is just one of many apple growers scrambling to take care of what’s potentially the biggest crop in Michigan’s history.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

You probably know 2012 was just horrible for Michigan’s fruit growers. But new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows it was officially the worst on record since tracking began – in 1925.  

There were only 11.6 million pounds of tart cherries produced in Michigan, usually the nation’s top producer of the fruit. That’s a 92 percent drop from last year’s 157.5 million pounds.

Marty Saffell is a USDA statistician based in the Michigan office in Lansing.

“For some of the fruits like peaches pears plums and cherries there are the majority of the growers had essentially zero crops so there was essentially zero income,” Saffell said.

Saffell says Michigan apple growers had the worst year since 1945.

Grape vines in west Michigan
user rkramer62 / Flickr

2012 will go down as an "annus horribilis" for most fruit-growers in Michigan. Apples, cherries, pears have been hit hard by the big March warm-up followed by a spring frost, then a hot, dry summer.

But if you are a wine producer in Michigan, you might be feeling happier about the weather we've had this year!

Eddie O'Keefe is the President of Chateau Grand Traverse Wines on the beautiful Old Mission Peninsula.

There was a lot of nail biting amongst growers early in the season said Mr. O’Keefe.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but what do you do when there are no apples? It's a question western Michigan's apple growers are dealing with this season after strange weather earlier in the year decimated the state's apple cultivation.

Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington, but the state's apples will soon be in short supply. Now in the middle of harvest season, growers are picking only 10 percent to 15 percent of their normal crop.

Cherries
user maena / MorgueFile.com

The federal government has approved financial support for Michigan fruit growers whose crops suffered due to unusual temperature fluctuations.

Almost all of Michigan's counties--72 of 83-- are now considered natural disaster areas and eligible for help.

Some growers say crop losses haven't been this bad in three generations.

Many Michigan farmers are spending this May focusing on their insurance needs.

The sporadic spring freezes and frosts that followed the unusually mild winter devastated Michigan’s apple, cherry and peach crops.     Most farmers have access to some form of crop insurance.   But according to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the insurance only covers about 60 to 70 percent of the loss.