Michigan Apple Harvest Hits Top Levels

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Michigan’s apple crop came booming back this year, likely producing 30 million bushels according to industry officials, and far surpassing the disastrous harvest in 2012 when the state’s apple growers produced only 2.7 million bushels. On average, Michigan yields about 20 million bushels per year.

“Many factors have contributed to this large crop,” says Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee.  “Great weather this past spring and summer, including cool nights, plenty of rain as well as a good amount of sunshine certainly helped. In addition, a long dormant period allowed the trees to store energy to help create a large crop.”

As one of the largest and most valuable fruit crops in Michigan, apples bring in an estimated annual $700-$900 million to the state. Michigan is the nation’s third-largest apple-producing state with more than 9.2 million apple trees in commercial production.

This large harvest this year has been particularly welcome after 2012, when unusually high temperatures in March followed by the normal frosts and freezes of April devastated the crop.

Gregory Hall, who opened Virtue Cider in Fennville in 2012, says the difference between this year and last is remarkable. “Last year was kind of the worst possible year to start a new cidery in Michigan. There weren’t a lot of apples, and the apples that were out there were expensive because there was such a high demand for so few.”

Last week, Hall’s cidery released Percheron Cidre Fermier, a French-style farmhouse cider that used a blend of blend of last season’s Michigan-grown Northern Spy and high acid apples, which after fermenting with wild yeast and being aged in French oak barrels, was blended with freshly pressed apple juice from the 2013 harvest. Hall says that while his business had to supplement its offerings with produce from the west coast in 2012, he expects nearly all of the fruit used this year will be from Michigan.

“We’re making all sorts of connections,” Hall says. “Everybody’s got more fruit than they expecting, so we’re actually getting calls from farmers asking if we need more fruit.”

The harvest in the southeast region will be complete early this week for many growers.

“Most apple growers (in the southeast region) report that they are harvesting a nice crop this season; however, most have done on to say they have not had a record apple crop as other parts of the state are experiencing,” says Robert Tritten, a horticultural educator at the Michigan State University Extension, in an apple maturity report. Tritten says this is likely to do with the frost that occurred in the region last May.

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