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Stateside Podcast: April freeze brings apple crop drop

Apples from an orchard in Ottawa County.
creative commons
Apples from an orchard in Ottawa County.

For some, autumn is the season for pumpkin spiced everything. As for Stateside? We're apple people. So we were distraught to hear that a few freezing nights in April hurt the crop at many orchards in southeast Michigan.

At Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan, the normally bountiful u-pick experience is limited to just a couple varieties of apples. Owner Jan Upston says Gala apples seem to be hearty, even in difficult weather.

Upston and her family have been battling the unpredictable Michigan weather at their apple orchard since the 1940s. She says the past couple years have been rough.

“It got really cold three days in April, and it froze off a lot of our blossoms. So we really do not have very many apples this year,” says Upston, a second-generation apple farmer. “The same thing happened last year. So we’re hoping it doesn’t happen again.”

Upston says the larger scale of an operation like Wasem Farms makes mitigation efforts to protect plants during a deep freeze unrealistic and too expensive. But for a small orchard like Detroit Farm and Cider, it might be the only way to survive.

Leandra King is the owner of Detroit Farm and Cider, a newer orchard in an urban setting that offers horseback riding and farm-to-table dinners alongside the apple trees. On those freezing nights in April, King asked the community for donations of charcoal to keep bonfires lit around her 140 trees to maintain a blanket of smoke that would keep the land warm in the unusually low temperatures.

“We put a call out for wood, for charcoal, and the entire community showed up. I was out there with a few volunteers for about 48 hours and people were coming and going, bringing wood all the way up until seven o'clock in the morning,” King said.

This year, King says that the orchard has produced more fruit than ever before, despite the cold, something she says wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the volunteers in her community.

Here's hoping your season is full of Michigan apple goodness, no matter the orchard!


Jan Upston, owner of Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan

Leandra King, owner of Detroit Farm and Cider in Detroit

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Laura is Executive Producer of Stateside. She came to Michigan Public from WDET in Detroit, where she was senior producer on the current events program, Detroit Today.