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Bushel bounty

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:14 PM

Due to unseasonably warm temperatures in March 2012, followed by freezing, the apple crop got zapped. The Michigan Apple Committee estimates the whole state produced less than 3 million bushels.

This year, get out your cinnamon sugar, rolling pin and pie crusts. Michigan's apple trees are expected to produce 30 million bushels, a crop that could ring the tills as one of the best ever — certainly the best in the last half-century.

The Michigan Apple Committee says the historical average is 20 million bushels.

“We got a nice crop this year,” said Miguel Ochoa, co-owner of A&L Farm Market in West Olive. “We've been picking for the last week or so, and the apples are really big.”

A&L is a just a bud in the apple business; 2013 is only the operation's second year, but the weekend you-pick operation is blossoming.

“We only picked a handful last year,” said Ochoa, estimating less than 2 percent of the crop survived the tumultuous temperatures. “Basically, it wasn't even worth picking them, but we picked the few that were there to sell at our farm market.”

What a difference a year makes. This year's crop is thriving and pushing 100 percent production. Some of the honeycrisp apples are close to 5 inches in diameter.

“Last year on April 29 we had a drastic freeze,” Ochoa said. “That's the one that got us really bad. The trees were all bloomed, which was abnormal. It killed all the bloom and all the apples.”

Last year, apples were so scarce that prime varieties like honeycrisp were fetching $2 to $3 per apple, according to VanderMill owner Paul VanderHeide. Cider at his Spring Lake Township cider mill was selling for $10 a gallon last season. This year, it's back down to $6 a gallon because apples are plentiful.

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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