Cultivate Michigan promotes Michigan apples by hosting an orchard tour

Apple season is well underway! A recent Cultivate Michigan apple orchard tour in southeastern Michigan highlighted the importance of the apple crop to farmers, the versatility of the crop and its value to institutional food purchasers.

Andrew Blake in farm market

Andrew Blake in farm market

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 SystemsEcology 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. 

Cultivate Michigan is a statewide local food purchasing campaign targeting institutions, including K-12 schools, hospitals, colleges/universities, early childcare, education settings and long-term care facilities. This initiative supports the Michigan Good Food Charter‘s goal of sourcing 20 percent of food Michigan food by 2020. It also provides the means for tracking institutional purchases through a dashboard. Apples are the fourth featured food of the Cultivate Michigan campaign in 2014, and a corresponding product purchasing guide for institutions has been developed to assist in finding, storing and using apples.

For more information on the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, which is working to link farm to institution efforts across the state, click here. For more information on MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems team and its work to build a sustainable food system across Michigan, click here


Pete, Andre & Paul Blake


Blake’s Cider processing 


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