Apple shortage leaves local businesses hanging

Autumn. It’s a time for apple picking, cider and donuts. This season, however, crop may be harder to come by.
A unreasonably warm winter followed by April’s frost took a toll on many apple trees, creating a shortage of the fruit in southeast Michigan. Consequently, orchards and other local companies have been forced to find alternatives to tradition and raise prices.
The orchards of Blakes Farms took a hit from the poor weather. Seventy percent of their apple crops were lost, despite the help of warming fans, forcing the orchard to seek other sources. The orchard hasn’t seen a shortage this bad since their opening in 1946, according to family member Andrew Blake.
Reaching out to farms from the west side of the state as well as other states, including Missouri and West Virginia, Blakes supplemented the apples they had with crops from other farms.
While there are still a lot of apples available and U-Pick remains an option, some of the picking is more limited and apple prices went up by about 25 percent.
“We want people to know we still have everything from previous years,” Blake said. “We’ve still got the apples and the cider, it was just a little more work this year.”
To counteract the apple issues, Blakes added more entertainment at their three locations, including jumping pillows, corn mazes, haunted hayrides and the Zombie Paintball Safari, according to Blake.
He said one of the best lessons from the experience was the importance of diversifying and growing other facets within the business.
Another place to pick up some fall fruits, Yates Cider Mill, gets their apples from local growers. According to co-owner Mike Titus, the mill had to find alternatives after the spring frost killed about 85 percent of their suppliers’ crops.
Networking to receive apples from other areas of Michigan and southern states, Yates has had different varieties of apples this season and eliminated the “bag your own” option. The import led to a price increase in apples and cider. According to Titus, however, the variety and earliness of the crop has led to early cider, as well as different kinds of apples to choose from.
“We have to look at the positive side,” Titus said. “In August, we offered a free half dozen donuts when people bought a dozen donuts and a gallon of cider, to supplement the rise in prices. Overall, it’s been a good start to the season. We still have a variety of Michigan apples.”
Local grocers and businesses have also been impacted by the frost.
In an article for Patch, Dale Hollandsworth, consumer communications spokesperson for Kroger, stated they will still have apples and cider for sale, though there will be less Michigan apple products, as well as a rise in price.
Biggby Coffee, who offers caramel apple cider this time of the year, was also impacted by the loss.
Due to the shortage, costs have doubled for Biggby to purchase apples for cider, so the individual stores have raised the prices on these beverages. While the drink will still be available, Biggby is promoting other autumn-inspired items as well, including drinks like the S’More latte, according to Biggby Public Relations Assistant Katie Koerner.
“We knew as a company that the caramel apple cider is one of the customer favorites,” Koerner said. “We wanted to make our customers happy and still offer it, even though prices are going up.”

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