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GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- For the most part, West Michigan’s apple crop survived an early morning frost that hit the “Fruit Ridge” on Monday, May 13.
“I think we came through it,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing in Sparta, one of Michigan’s largest apple shipper.
Armock said he was up most of the night as temperatures dipped into the mid-20s in low-lying areas around the Ridge, which produces nearly three-fourths of Michigan’s apple crop.
“It was pretty scary there,” said Armock. “In some low-lying areas it got down to 24 degrees.”
Last year because of the screwy weather patters West Michigan lost 90% of much of its fruit crop - apples, cherries, etc. The spring came early and warm, the trees opened up their buds and started to flower and then BAM...hard frost.
That scenario is playing out again tonight. It's been a warm few weeks. But tonight we're looking at a frost. Farmers along the coast of West Michigan are putting out the frost fans to try to keep the crops from damage. It's 37 degrees right now.
Folks think of Michigan as an industrial state. And we are. But we're also a major fruit producing state, especially along the western side. Cherries, apples, blueberries, pears. Here on the Eastern coast of Lake Michigan, the winds of the Big Lake produce a micro-climate ideal for fruit production. The farmer's markets here are amazing - full of fresh, locally grown seasonal fruits, many varieties of cherries, and massive amounts of apples, strawberries, plumbs, pears, peaches, and boxes of blueberries. Here in Muskegon County, as you drive through the countryside blueberry farms are more common than anything.
Even our city and street names reflect the fruit growing heritage: Fruitport, Fruitland Township, Apple avenue, Fruitridge, Orchard View.
Fruit production is an important part of our economy. It's an important part of who we are, and more importantly, it's the food we eat, not just here but nationwide.
Changes in climate patterns, however, seem to be altering that part of life here as well.
Here's to the farmers tonight. It's going to be a long night.