March 25 05:54 AM

Harvest is bountiful

Area fruit growers report one of the best seasons ever

November 11, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — From raspberries to peaches and cherries to apples, 2009 brought local fruit growers a sweet bumper crop.

The cool, damp weather provided the ideal growing conditions for most fruit varieties. Chuck Bristol of Brookwood Fruit Farm in Almont Township said the red raspberry harvest was "the best I've ever seen." Ron Yoder, owner of Yoder's Orchards, also in Almont, called the peach harvest "unbelievable."

At the moment, they're hoping more buyers will snatch up their bounteous apple offerings.

At Brookwood, the Bristols cultivate more than 40 varieties of apples. The popular varieties are still flying off the shelves, Chuck Bristol reports, including Honeycrisp apples.

"This is the first year that they lasted more than half a day," Bristol says, wryly.

"People start asking about them July 1 and quit asking about them on June 30. Now I tell them you'll have to wait another 45 weeks."

Demand for the variety is widespread, Bristol said, and growers are responding accordingly.

"Half of the trees being planted in Michigan are Honeycrisp," he said.

Apples destined for pie and other baked goods are also good sellers. Bristol said everyone has a differing opinion on what kind of apple makes the best pie—a growers association crowned Mutsu with the title, Spies are traditional and Cortlands make for a tender filling.

For Bristol, the best pie comes from slicing up a variety of just about anything at hand...and he should know.

"I try to limit my pie intake to no more than three times a day," he said, with a smile.

Brookwood Fruit Farm on Boardman Rd. is open year-round and also sells cider and locally-produced honey.

At Yoder's, sales have been strong for Northern Spies, Jonagold and Fujis.

Ron Yoder passes time and greets customers with fiddle music from his M-53 fruit stand. photo by Maria Brown.
"This has been one of the best could have been better if it wasn't for the recession," Yoder, a fourth-generation grower, said.

"It's not all going to get sold."

As long as the weather cooperates, buyers can pick their own apples if they choose. Golden Delicious, Spies and Red Delicious are still hanging from the trees, he said.

Lucky shoppers might just get a serenade too from Yoder, who passes time by playing his fiddle at the fruit stand.

At Blake's Almont Farm, produce of all kinds was plentiful throughout the year, said Assistant Manager Linda Parks.

In anticipation of favorite holiday dishes, customers are still streaming in for apples and squash, Parks said.

Shoppers who stop at Blake's with plans to pick up the predictable Northern Spies for pie or Macintosh for eating are in for a surprise.

"We try to sway them toward other varieties," Parks said.

"We say 'go ahead taste an apple...treat your tastebuds to something different,'" Parks said.

Most customers leave with full stomachs and a 'new' kind of apple.

Blake's is still selling Michigan-grown onions, potatoes, pears and cider in addition to the apples.

Blake's Almont location will remain open until Nov. 29.

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