Apple pie, applesauce, apple jelly-- any and all good things apple-related-- will be found this fall in Michigan, as the state bounces back from last year's nearly non-existent apple crop. Michigan's apple growers will harvest approximately 30 million bushels of apples this year, according to the official crop estimate announced at the USApple Association's Outlook meeting in Chicago. This is a large increase from 2012, when unusual weather events destroyed most of the crop, and only about three million bushels of apples were harvested.
"Our growers, packers and shippers are already moving Michigan apples into the marketplace and are thrilled with the estimates for this year's crop," said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, who was in attendance at the USApple announcement in Chicago. "There's a lot of buzz around the estimate here in Chicago and in our state. Growers are looking forward to a successful harvest season."
In 2012, with an absence in the marketplace, growers, shippers and packers spent the time making investments back into the industry. Improvements to packing facilities, equipment and educational efforts are some of the ways Michigan's industry looked to the future after the crop loss.
"Our apple growers always maintained a positive attitude throughout the difficult crop year. They made positive investments in the industry and looked ahead to how they could make the industry even better going forward," said Smith.
A few area growers lucked out in 2012 and managed to have a decent crop. One such grower was Richard Friske of Friske Orchards in Ellsworth.
"Ironically, we had an outstanding crop last year," Friske noted. "Financially, it was very good for us, since many other apple growers didn't have any crop last year. We ended up selling to a lot of cider mills and farmer's markets last season who didn't have apples. It's great there's going to be such a tremendous crop this year, though. It will nice for there to be an ample amount of apples available to the consumer at reasonable prices."
Bill McMaster, owner of Bill's Farm Market in Petoskey said he's glad there will be a good apple crop this season, especially after the challenges of purchasing apples for his market last year.
"The orchard we get our apples from has an awesome crop this year," McMaster said. "Every grower I've talked to has said their crop will be at 100 to 110-percent, which is great. Right now we're getting in a real nice crop of Zest Star and Ginger Gold apples and the Macintosh and Honeycrisp apples look like they're going to be great this year, too. I think this is the best year we've ever had for apples."
Another local resident happy about this year's crop is Kurt Anderson, owner of North Wind Gardens, just north of Harbor Springs. Anderson's farm specializes in growing certified organic apples, and after last year's disappointing crop, his trees are loaded this year.
"Last year we had nothing because of the weather," he said. "This year we'll have a really good crop, though, along with everyone. This is typical, though when it comes to apples. One year you may not have many at all, and then the next year it will be a bumper crop."
The predicted crop size would be one of the largest apple crops Michigan has seen. In 2011, Michigan produced about 26 million bushels of apples. Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the United States, behind Washington and New York.
"Many factors have contributed to this large crop," said Smith. "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. Finally, a lot of hard work by our growers ultimately gives us a great quality crop of good-sized, flavorful Michigan apples."
The USApple Outlook meeting's estimate is the only official national crop estimate this year, as the federal sequester eliminated the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) estimate. The estimate will be important for Michigan as apples are one of the state's largest and most valuable fruit crops, with an estimated annual impact of $700 - $900 million on the state's economy.
(The Michigan Apple Committee contributed to this article).