Cultivate Michigan Promotes Michigan Apples By Hosting an Orchard Tour
by Terry McLean, Michigan State University Extension
Michigan ranks third in the nation in apple production. Apples are an important crop for individual consumers and institutional food service directors alike in their nutritional value, abundance of varieties and uses, and storage capacity. Food Service directors at an October tour of Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in northern Macomb County highlighted the many benefits apples possess and the value they place on cooking and baking. Without apples, we could not produce wonderful dishes such as fresh and hard cider, sauces, pies, baked goods, jellies, jams, apple butter, cider vinegar and fresh and dried fruit. This tour was hosted by the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, and its institutional purchasing campaign Cultivate Michigan. It was co-coordinated by Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, Ecology Center and supported by Michigan State University Extension.
Goals for the Cultivate Michigan apple orchard tour included learning first-hand about apple production, processing and distribution. The tour was also held as a way of connecting institutional buyers with local food vendors and providing networking opportunities for Farm to Institution stakeholders. Participants viewed the retail and wholesale areas on the farm including the cider mill, farm market, cider house and winery, wash, sort and pack lines, cold storage facility and trees out in the orchard. Blake’s is a multi-generational, historic family farm that started in 1946 and was one of the first “Pick Your Own” orchards in Michigan. Attendees on the tour included school, hospital, and long-term care facility food service directors. The owners of Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill, Pete, Paul and Andrew Blake, fielded many questions about their growing practices and experiences with institutional clients and markets.