Michigan Apple Committee expects record harvest

Tribune News Service • Sep 5, 2016 at 9:00 AM

TRAVERSE CITY — Christmas Cove Farm's market soon will open featuring hundreds of apples, with a projected bountiful harvest of the juicy, round fruit.

John and Phyllis Kilcherman, owners of the farm in Northport, expect to collect a harvest of 250 apple varieties from loaded trees, joining farmers statewide in supplying one of the largest projected apple crops.

The Michigan Apple Committee expects state apple growers will harvest 1.3 billion pounds of apples — roughly 31 million bushels — according to committee reports citing estimates announced at the USApple Outlook meeting in Chicago on Aug. 26. It would surpass the 2015 numbers of 24 million bushels.

The Kilchermans look to join the potential record harvest that will see apples shipped to 27 states and 18 countries, including China and Central American locations.

“Everything looks good out on the farm,” Phyllis Kilcherman said. “Our apples look beautiful.”

Several regions experienced favorable weather conditions including rain and some heat, leading to large amounts of sweet fruit.

“(The apple harvest) is looking really good,” said MAC Communication and Marketing Director Gretchen Mensing. “It’s looking like things are sizing up well. The quality is looking good.”

The same cannot be said for some other area farms.

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Rennie Orchards in Williamsburg continues to recover from hail damage experienced over two straight years to the farm’s apple orchards. Dime-sized hail punctured apples during a storm July 8, with some hail stones leaving holes large enough for owner Bill Rennie to place his finger in.

Rennie does not expect his farm to have a substantial contribution to the anticipated record harvest after removing damaged apples and seeing others fail to bloom — including Jonagold and golden delicious.

“We aren’t having the booming crop they are talking about,” he said. “We are struggling a little bit. I’m glad someone is coming out of this looking good.”

Hail storms missed Christmas Cove but dry July conditions concerned John Kilcherman. Recent showers helped make up for the drought, he said.

Picking is underway or has concluded for several varieties at the Northport farm, including summer treat and Viking. John Kilcherman expects to have 10 to 12 varieties for sale when the farm’s market opens Sept. 15. Many more bushels will be sent to processors to be made into ciders and other products.

Phyllis Kilcherman said a large state harvest could impact the processing market and potentially lower prices for apples used in different products.

She said they plan to work to ensure market visitors have plenty of apples to choose from. They sell a slew of fresh varieties including Macoun, which people drive from around the country to taste.

“They have an awesome flavor,” Phyllis said. “When you bite into it, it just snaps and the juice runs down your chin.”

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