Category Archives: Apples

2013 is a record apple crop for Michigan growers, but migrant labor is hard to find

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2012 was a disaster for Michigan apple growers, but 2013 has been a good year. From Capital Press:

Michigan apple industry set new shipment records two weeks in a row in October — with the second and highest week being 414,702 boxes the week ending Oct. 12.

Michigan and New York are experiencing bumper crops following severely reduced crops in 2012 from spring freezes.

“Our growers, packers and shippers are working seven days a week, day and night, to move this crop,” said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee in Lansing.

One of the limiting factors in the apple harvest is the availability of seasonal workers to pick the crop. Last year was a bad year and some migrants resettled to other states. From MLive:

Market demand also will play a role in determining how many apples are left in the fields or sent to packers and processors, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee that represents some 850 family-owned orchards.

Smith estimates the apple harvest workforce is short about 20 percent. Labor has been the industry’s top concern for many years, since it’s tough to find an adequate skilled workforce, she said, adding that immigration policies that allow migrant workers to go back and forth between the U.S. and their home countries would help.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle notes the impact in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula:

Some affected growers, particularly in the Grand Rapids area, are prioritizing and picking only varieties that have the best financial return, said Jim Bardenhagen, an area fruit and vegetable farmer and retired 20-year Leelanau County extension director.

Bardenhagen said several area farmers told him that only about half of migrant workers needed to pick apples in the region came to northwestern lower Michigan this year and that many are new to the work. He personally lost only one worker in his crew of three. Area crews generally can vary from about five to 30.

This would be a good year to look for orchards that are doing a gleaner’s harvest to donate to local food banks.

Image credit: Apples by Roger Yepsen, available on Amazon.

In this small and elegant book, artist/writer Roger Yepsen presents fascinating facts about more than 200 varieties of apples growing in the United States. With beautiful and distinctive watercolors, he makes identification a snap. He also reveals how each variety tastes and which varieties are best for eating and cooking.

Related articles

Michigan bumper harvest affects Washington apple growers
Growers say lack of immigration reform is crippling their efforts to harvest crops
Michigan Apple Harvest Recovers, But Pickers Are Scarce
‘It’s not easy being a migrant,’ panelists say
Students leave 91 bags of apples at Congressman Fred Upton’s office to call for immigration reform

Prime Red apples are in at Farmers Market (August 24, 2013)

We got some Prime Red apples at Farmer’s Market from Wasem’s Fruit Farm.

Prime Red is also known as Akane or Tokyo Rose. From Orange Pippin, an encyclopedia of apples:

Akane was developed in Japan in the 1930s, and represents an unusual marriage of the classic English early variety, Worcester Pearmain, and the high quality American heritage apple variety, Jonathan – and it is a marriage that works very successfully.

Potato pancakes (Latkes) recipe

This is the family latke recipe, perfected over time. Ten pounds of potatoes serves one neighborhood.

Warning: the following recipe may be bad for your health and completely
destructive of your kitchen!

From a newspaper clipping in my recipe book, much amended by me over the

Time: 20 minutes (More like two hours, unless you have multiple griddles)

2 large eggs
3 cups grated drained, all-purpose potatoes (see below)
1/4 cup grated onion (see below)
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste (less)
2 to 4 tablespoons matzo meal, or as needed (I used whole wheat flour;
you could also use breadcrumbs)
Canola oil, for frying
Applesauce and sour cream for serving, optional (mandatory!)

0. Peel the potatoes. If you are peeling a lot of potatoes, put the peeled ones in a bowl of water before you process them so that they don't get brown while you're waiting for step 1.

1. Put the potatoes through the food processor, using the shredding blade. Take them out, change to the regular grinding blade, and put them through again, adding the onion in big chunks (no need to grate!), eggs, salt and flour. Adjust the flour to make a thick, wet batter that is neither
watery nor dry.

2. Place a large skillet (we have better luck using an ancient, well-seasoned griddle) over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil (more!). When oil is hot drop in heaping 1/8 cups (more!) of batter, flattening them gently to make thick pancakes. When bottoms have browned, after 2 or 3 minutes (more!), flip and brown on other side. Add oil as needed. Drain on paper towels. If necessary (!), work in batches, keeping cooked pancakes warm. Servef hot with applesauce and sour cream.

Yield: 4 servings

Quarter and core many apples; do not peel. Cover bottom of pot with water, put in the apples, half (or a whole) orange (pref. organic, with seeds removed), one (or two) cinnamon sticks. Cook over gentle heat for at least 20 minutes, up to several hours, until apples break down. Cool. Remove cinnamon stick, scrape flesh from orange and return to pot; discard peel. Put apple mixture through food processor; grind well, so that no large pieces of peel remain.

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