BY JANICE BENSON Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — CENTRAL LAKE — John King looks at the apples at his King Orchards farm and sees one of the best-looking crops he’s seen in a long time.
“The crop is as close to a 100 percent crop as I’ve ever seen in our orchards,” King said. “So far the quality and size are excellent. Last year we had just one third of a crop, and no cherries, peaches or apricots, so it’s euphoric to see the beautiful size of the apples already.”
Early reports indicate that Michigan apple growers could have one of the biggest crops they’ve seen in years. Eric MacLeod, raw products manager for Cherry Growers, Inc. in Grawn, said this could be the biggest crop since the late 1990s.
“We’ve had big crops before, but this crop looks very promising after an essential crop failure in 2012,” MacLeod said. “Official estimates for this year range from 26 million to 30 million bushels, whereas the five-year historic average has been around 20 million. The quality looks excellent.”
Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturalist with Michigan State University Extension and coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, agrees.
“Our northwest Michigan apple crop is looking great,” she said. “With the cool nights a few weeks ago and the sunny days, our apples have really put on some color. I also think growers did a nice job thinning this year, and apples are sizing well even despite the little rainfall.”
King has a few worries about the size of this crop as harvest time approaches, but mostly, he’s excited.
“I worry about how you get all of this done in a short amount of time,” he said. “It’s a monumental challenge, but we’re up for it. We’ll be at the farmers markets, we’ll have the cider press going at our markets and we’re expanding our u-pick this year.”
King expects strong demand for Gala, Honeycrisp, MacIntosh and Gingergold apples. They are also introducing some heritage apples this year, Spitzenburg, Gravenstein and Northern Spy.
“We’re very happy that we have a lot to work with,” King said.