The Rapidian

Michigan loses core of apple crop

Despite losses, West Michigan cider mills are pushing through this season with hope for next season.
Robinettes Apple Haus is still open for business despite loss of crops

Robinettes Apple Haus is still open for business despite loss of crops /Krisy Force

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Robinettes Hours and Location

Apple Haus

Mon-Sat 8 a.m. -5:30 p.m.

Sun 12-5:30 p.m.

 Winery & Gifts

Mon-Sat10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Sun 12-5:30 p.m.

 

Contact Robinettes

3142 4 Mile Rd NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525

 

The leaves change color, fall from their branches and swirl toward the now bare ground. Cold winds blow across the West Michigan area warning residents that it is another Michigan fall which means two things: beautiful scenery and trips to the nearest cider mill for the cider and fresh baked donuts. 

“Michigan, unlike a lot of states, has a fall. It’s cooler out, it’s nice to be out and we normally associate that with the cider mills,” says Grand Rapids community member Dan Wells.

However, with this year’s devastating loss of the apple crop it would seem like less trips to the mill would be likely. While some farm markets, such as Motmans, in Allendale, MI, were forced to close for the fall season, mills such as Robinettes Apples Haus, in downtown Grand Rapids, have not seen a decrease in customers. 

“I think that we have been busier as ever when the weather is nice,” says family member and manager of Robinettes, John Robinette.

For Wells, going to the cider mill has always been a tradition. 

“We’ve been going to the cider mill since we were kids. The donuts are good and the cider has been good,” he says. 

Robinettes lost 100% of their crop this season, both apples and peaches, to the frost that hit earlier this year. Jennifer Holton, the Communications Director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, commented that 90-95% of Michigan’s crop was lost statewide. 

“It really started in March. The 80 degree temperatures that people were excited about sparked the process of the trees waking up a month ahead of schedule. The unusually warm weather, followed by the frost/freeze events, had a devestating impact on our specialty crop producers, such as our apple farmers,” Holton says.

“It was over several weeks that we lost the crop,” Robinette adds.

The Michigan Apple Committee, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press, reports that the Michigan apple crop this year will be about 3 million bushels, as opposed to the typical 25 million bushel Michigan apple crop. This amount of damage is a new experience for the mills because the owners and operators of the mills were not around when the last loss this large ocurred.

According to a June 28, 2012 press release from the Michigan Apple Committee, a loss of this magnitude has not occurred since the mid-1940s. 

The loss is forcing mills, Robinettes included, to buy their products from other locations, as well as increase prices in attempts to break even.

“We have expanded our weekend hours to try to make up for the crop shortage. We’re open until seven on Saturdays now,” Robinette says. He added that Robinettes increased their fresh apple prices by 15% and 10% in cider because they have had to purchase products from other local growers who had “more luck than we did.” 

Apple prices are predicted to rise by as much as $1 a pound, with juice prices also rising 20% or more.

According to the Michigan Apple Committee, the apple crop is worth 700-900 million dollars a year to the state of Michigan, which means that growers suffered quite immensly. 

“From the growers to the shippers, retailers, laborers and consumers, the effect of this year’s crop loss will be widespread,” says Diane Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee.  

“No one can put a full value on the loss at this point – it will have an impact on Michigan’s entire agriculture industry and beyond. Our job is to support Michigan’s apple growers and the apple industry as they move forward through this difficult season," she adds.

Mike Motman, owner of Motman’s Farm Market, commented that the “loss hurts a lot” and there is “no income.” One of the many reasons he made an executive decision to not open at all this year was because he did not want to have to buy apples from other local growers due to price.

“They’re so high priced. Plus we have always been proud of our own apples, so [we did not want] to turn around and buy high priced apples and try to make a profit,” Motman says.  

Despite the loss, “a lot of farm markets and cider mills are open and I think that the experience [of going to the mill and buying cider and apples] is still important," Holton says. "I hope that people will go and do that this fall and have that experience.”  

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