Michigan cider mills and apple orchards are reaping benefits from what some are calling the great apple boom of the 21st century. This year’s apple crop has crushed records dating back to 1992, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Apple harvest production can make or break a business. When compared to last year’s harvest, this year’s harvest is historic because it went from the Great Apple Shortage of 2012 to the Great Apple Surplus of 2013. This season’s bountiful supply is keeping many local cider mills afloat.
Gretchen Mensing, Communications and Marketing Manager at Michigan Apples Committee (MichiganApples.com), said March 2012 temperatures were unusually high in Michigan. Mensing said the warmth, then freeze decimated the 2012 crop, which left extra nutrients for the next generation of crops in 2013.
“In 2012 the trees didn’t produce any fruit. They stored up a whole bunch of energy and nutrients so that the 2013 crop had enough energy and nutrients to produce more fruit,” said Mensing.
For many, a visit to a cider mill on a crisp, fall day is a family tradition, like going camping or to a ball park on opening day. The demand is always there, but only during a couple of months a year and the supply can fluctuate.
This year’s bumper apple crop is great news for the consumer as well as local cider mills. While the supply of apples has increased, the demand for the fruit remains the same. The surplus means we’ll be paying lower prices for apples and jugs of cider this year.
Michigan’s apple belt is located in the northwest side of the state. That’s where many cider mills get their apples to make the sweet, tangy juice we look forward to every fall.
K. C. Kidder, manager at Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill (NorthvilleCider.com) in Northville, Michigan, said the price of her cider has dropped from $10.50 a gallon to $8.75 a gallon. Like many cider mills, Parmenter’s didn’t have any apples to sell last year because of the disappointing crop. This year the price of retail apples are selling for anywhere from $15 to $30 a bushel.
“The word was out last year that apples were scarce so, yeah, it did hurt our business. But we’ve always had our loyal cider mill customers and it’s really nice this year because we have those people and more,” Kidder said.
At Diehl’s Orchard and Cider Mill (DiehlsOrchard.com) in Holly, Michigan, the price of cider also has dropped, from $11 a gallon to $7.25 a gallon.
Ed Granchi purchased Paint Creek Cider Mill (PaintCreekCiderMill.net) in Oakland Township, Michigan last year. He said he currently pays about $6 a bushel for apples. That makes about 3 1/2 gallons of juice. Granchi said since purchasing the cider mill in October of 2012 he has drastically increased his menu items. Granchi said despite last year’s scarcity of apples, he felt confident in purchasing the cider mill because he has a strong work ethic and solid business plan. “If and when Mother Nature decides to flex her muscles, if we have a bad apple crop again, at least I can fall back on my food product,” he said.
Many cider mills offer more than just cider and doughnuts. Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills (YatesCiderMill.com) is a Michigan landmark, making apple cider since 1876. Since then, the business has expanded to include a fudge shop, pony rides, a petting zoo and even caricature drawings. Last year Yates, which has a long and loyal following, opened an outpost at a shopping mall in Auburn Hills, Michigan. But because of 2012’s bad apple harvest, the Yates Cider Mill Outpost was forced to close.
September and October are the busiest times for cider mills in Michigan, so these months are crucial for their success. While business owners are confident this year abundance of apples will help boost their sales, there’s always that uncertainty of what next year’s harvest will bring.
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