Apple Crop Shortage Hits Home
A spring freeze has resulted in the smallest harvest in Michigan since 1945, raising prices on apples at Metro Detroit orchards and meaning fewer of the state-grown fruits at Berkley grocery stores.
Wild weather this spring that devastated Michigan's apple crop is having a mixed impact on the price and availability of the crunchy fruits this fall, according to Metro Detroit purveyors.
Grocers in Berkley have been able to hold prices steady, but are offering fewer state-grown apples; Metro Detroit orchard owners have had to import the fruits; and one popular pie company has seen the cost of its products increase.
[Leave a comment to share how you've experienced the crop shortage's impact!]
Orchards hit hard
Apple prices have gone up after a spring freeze resulted in the smallest apple crop in the state since 1945, said Pete Blake, co-owner of Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill in Armada.
A week of 90-degree temperatures in March caused the trees to bloom early. Then, a series of cold April nights killed those apple blossoms.
“The trees are still fine for next year, but it takes the crop for this year,” Blake said.
Blake’s was able to harvest 20-25 percent of their apple crop this season, expecting about 10,000 bushels. An ideal season at Blake’s would yield about 50,000 bushels.
But Blake assures orchard patrons that there will not be a shortage of apples, candy apples or apple cider, as the orchard is buying apples and cider from orchards in West Michigan for “considerably” higher prices, resulting in a roughly 25 percent price hike this year for orchard patrons.
“We added new stuff this year because we knew it was going to be a light apple crop,” he said. “But we want to get it out there that the apples, apple cider and activities are out in full force.”
Blake recommends customers come early this fall because the orchard may run out of certain varieties of apples and products. Patrons can still pick their own apples, but Blake predicts apples in the trees may be gone by mid-October. Red raspberries are also available for customers to pick.
Other orchards have experience similar travails.
- Erwin Orchards and cider mill in South Lyon, which remains open, lost its entire crop and is working to fill the gap by importing produce. "We have purchased apples from a farm on the west side of the state and are pressing cider with Michigan grown apples," reads a notice on the orchard's website. Visitors also can pick raspberries and pumpkins grown at Erwin Orchards and participate in a variety of fall activities including wagon rides, a corn maze and a petting farm.
- Fenton Patch reported in June that Mueller’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Linden/Fenton Township won't open this year for the first time since 1941 due to the destructive weather.
- Nearby Spicer Orchards, which is open with a variety of apples and activities available this fall, experienced its worst crop since 1945, according to Fenton Patch.
The annual economic impact of the state's apple industry is estimated at $800 million, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Berkley grocers see limited impact
"I was expecting to feel it more than we are," Westborn marketing director Brian Bandyk said. "It seems like it's business as usual. Now, I can't predict a month from now."
He said apple prices, which range from $1.99 to $2.99 per pound at the store, are consistent with years past and that Westborn has Honeycrisps and galas from Michigan, as well as Hy's cider from Romeo.
"But, we definitely are getting other out-of-state apples, as well," he said.
Hiller's also has been able to maintain its apple prices, but is able to offer fewer of the fruits grown in-state, manager Brad Stahl said.
"We can't have the Michigan ones like we usually do," he said. "We are trying to stay in the U.S., but we have a lot from New Zealand and Chile that we've had to import."
However, the grocery store has been able to keep its apple prices, which range from $1.69 to $1.99 per pound, close to what they were last year, Stahl said.
He added that cider and apple pie are available at Hiller's this fall, despite the crop shortage.
Achatz Pies forced to raise price of slice
The cost of Achatz pies, which are available at retailers throughout Metro Detroit, including Hiller's in Berkley, has gone up due to the shortage.
Achatz Handmade Pie Co., headquartered in Chesterfield, buys about 400,000 pounds of apples each year to make roughly 200,000 pies, co-owner Wendy Achatz said.
“By the third week (of unseasonable weather), we all started biting our nails,” she said. “We knew what was going to happen when all the trees started blooming early. So, we were prepared for it and had a plan B.”
Usually, the company gets apples to make their pies from West Michigan orchards, but this year, Achatz said they will have to expand their search.
“We’re buying as many Michigan apples as we can, but we’re definitely going to have to get more from Washington and Oregon,” she said.
Achatz said apple prices have nearly doubled, causing the price of an Achatz apple pie to increase by $1.
“It’s not going to cover the whole cost, but it’s hard for the customers,” Achatz added. “We’re going to take a little hit, but we understand it’s business.”
Despite issues with crops this season, Achatz noted that company sales are up 28 percent this year.