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Growers say local apple harvest is at least average

Parts of Michigan report bumper crop

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Barbara DeGrande, left, of Farmington Hills, Mich., buys apples from Valerie Mitchell at Erie Orchards and Cider Mill in Erie, Mich.

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Despite a challenging growing season complete with heavy spring rains, most local apple growers look to be on track for an average to above-average year as they harvest the bountiful fall fruit.

"Things look real good. We're really close to a full crop," said Robert MacQueen II, a manager at MacQueen's orchards in Springfield Township. With close to 30 percent of the orchard's 180 acres of apples already harvested, Mr. MacQueen said this year's apple crop has shaped up nicely. "Despite the dry weather we had at times, we have really good size on the fruit. The red and yellow delicious are really phenomenal."

Federal agriculture officials are projecting an average to above-average crop for the nation's 10-state north central region, stretching from Pennsylvania to Missouri and including both Michigan and Ohio.

Some portions of Michigan -- the nation's third-largest grower of apples -- are experiencing bumper crops, the National Agriculture Statistics Service reported.

The agency this week reported that about a third of Michigan's apple harvest had been completed, with about 39 percent of Ohio's annual harvest picked, both slightly below average for this time of year.

Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association, said that as state growers near the half-way point of their harvest, "things are moving along well" considering the awful start many growers got earlier this year, with a very wet spring.

Local conditions can vary wildly, as was the case this year at Erie Orchards and Cider Mill, in Erie, Mich., where owner Steve Elzinga said a wet April and May kept many of his most important workers grounded.

"Pollination was really bad this year. It was really wet in April and May, so the bees won't work in weather like that," Mr. Elzinga said. While the orchard has a "full crop of Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and a nice crop of Jonathans," Mr. Elzinga said, its popular golden delicious apples "happen to be the lightest for me this year.

"It's not like we were wiped out, but instead of getting 18 bushels per tree, we're getting six."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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