Small apple crops can’t get in the way of fun in local orchards, cider houses

Michigan reports a weaker apple harvest this season, due to an early frost in April that destroyed many apple blossoms. Local orchards and cider houses, like Blake’s Family of Companies, say there are still plenty of apples to taste.

METRO DETROIT – Fall has officially arrived and the cooler weather attracts many local families to apple orchards and cider houses for outdoor fun.

However, those who do will likely notice higher prices for apples, cider, and donuts due to smaller apple harvests statewide, labor shortages, and product price increases. stimulated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said a frost at the end of April caused some apple-growing areas of Michigan to endure nine hours or more in the 20-degree range, which, according to her, was too cold for one of the delicate apple blossoms that opened at that time.

“Even with frost protection tools and apple trees‘ natural defense mechanisms, some of the fruit has been lost,” Smith said in a statement. “However, there will still be plenty of apples for consumers this fall.”

Although the Michigan Apple Committee estimates a harvest of 18.3 million bushels this year, up from 22 million last year, Smith said the smaller harvest could mean a larger one for 2022.

“When apple trees produce a smaller crop, the energy is stored and directed to producing the next crop,” she said in a statement. “The industry is hopeful that we will see a bigger harvest next year.

Michigan harvested about 22.5 million bushels of apples in 2020 and 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Despite this year’s crop shortage, Franklin Cider Mill co-owner Melanie Radner said there was plenty of traditional German cider, apples and donuts to sample at the historic mill, which has been around for years. 1800.

“We are dealing with a large orchard in Grand Rapids, and they are wonderful to us. We just get what we can get. Apples look great and they taste great, ”she said.

The scarcity of supply has doubled the price of many apples, which Radner says has been hard to swallow.

“Raising the price of apples is difficult for us, because we also have to raise our prices a bit… not a lot – it’s very minimal,” she said. “We haven’t had a single complaint.

In fact, the price of just about everything that orchards and cider houses use has jumped this year.

“It’s not just apples, it’s all, whatever product we carry here – our mix of donuts – it’s all increased since the coronavirus, unfortunately. Everyone had to raise their prices, ”Radner said.

Fortunately, the increased costs haven’t deterred the crowds from enjoying the beloved fall tradition.

“Crowds have been stable since the day we opened,” Radner said. “Weekends are usually busier, but we’re pretty stable, as long as the weather allows. “

After conducting an entirely open-air operation for guests last year, the Franklin Cider Mill has reopened its interior for visitors to see the cider-making process. Masks are mandatory to enter the mill, and visits are limited to 25 visitors for each pressing. Some other factory favorite offerings are making a comeback this season, including hot dogs and ciders, plus the Franklin Tent – which is stocked with homemade jams, maple syrup, honey, salsas, meats. , cheeses and more. Behind the mill, by the river, is the Franklin Cider Mill community spot, which hosts live jazz music and a children’s magician on Saturdays and Sundays by the river. Once a month, in conjunction with the Franklin Village Library, the Mill also offers a Saturday morning book hour with topics related to Franklin Cider Mill, cider, donuts, apples and ducks. Dates, times and subjects are listed online.

Blake’s, a family owned and operated orchard and cider house in Armada that has served generations since 1946, also reports consistent crowds this season.

Andrew Blake, president of Blake Family of Companies, said Blake pivoted early in the pandemic to create more security and outdoor functionality.

“We have made significant investments to do this, such as building more outdoor bars, adding more retail outposts to sell food and drink, establishing stations. sanitation and purchase of a 100ft tent for additional outdoor seating / gatherings when guest limitations were in place. We’ve made a lot of additions this year, ”he said in an email.

Blake’s was also able to fight the spring frost by investing and planning ahead.

“Mother Nature is unpredictable, and after 75 years of farming we are expecting and preparing for weather challenges. We have invested in several safety measures to protect our crops, such as wind turbines and irrigation systems, ”Blake said in an email.

The Blake’s family of companies is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a crop of fun events and attractions at its three locations: Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Armada, Blake’s Big Apple in Armada and the newly renovated Blake’s Backyard in Almont.

“The farm and apple orchards all started in 1946, and over the years this has spread to the attractions, experiences and events all year round which are now a tradition for many families, and we are honored to help create these memories for generations, ”Blake said in a statement.

According to Blake’s site, customers can enjoy U-pick apples and pumpkins, cider and donuts, corn mazes, a haunted house, hay walks, a cider bar and more. .

This summer, the company completed a million-dollar redevelopment of Almont’s property into Blake’s Backyard, a multi-purpose retail and entertainment venue expanded year-round.

“It’s a way to experience Blake while avoiding the crowds. New amenities include an auction room serving Blake’s hard cider, indoor and outdoor seating, a bite-size menu, and a fresh produce market to grab a bite to eat, in addition to the selling greenhouse. at retail, farm stand and U-Pick products, ”said Blake.
For more information about Blake’s, visit www.blakefarms.com or call (586) 784-5343. For more information on Franklin Cider Mill, visit www.franklincidermill.com or call (248) 626-8261.


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