What follows is a day in the life of the apple harvest in Benzie County.
It was a beautiful Friday the 23rd of Sep and the apple harvest is going strong here in Northern Michigan. We have several grower and processor partners here at GTPie so today I paid a visit to two of them located just down the road in Benzie County – Smeltzer Orchard Company and Evans Brothers Orchards. We have known the fine folks at Smeltzers since day one of the Grand Traverse Pie Co in 1996. They have been growing fruit in this area for 6 generations! They started one of the first orchards in Michigan in 1872. Great folks indeed as they would drive fruit up from Frankfort to our original GTPie shop in Traverse City. We could not have been in business without their fine efforts! Just a few miles down the road (Joyfield Road) is one of the largest family farms in the county – Evans Brothers Orchards. This is a 3 generation family operation and they grow cherries, apples and now some really great grapes which go into area wines.
Keith Brian of Smeltzers and Mike Evans of Evans Orchard checking out the great bounty of Golden Delicious Apples on a Golden Beautiful Friday afternoon! We feel so fortunate to have these folks on our team, they grow and process such wonderful fruit, the most important ingredient to all of our fruit pies. They report that nature has been good this year, the trees are full, the quality is top notch!
The trees were bursting with beautiful Golden Delicious apples. They also grow the Northern Spy apples that we use in most of our apple pies. There is something special about being in an orchard as it is being harvested, especially on such a sunny warm day. Here is an interesting fact – there are several crab apple trees planted in most apple orchards, the crab apples are very small and don’t get harvested. They do this because the crab apple trees attract bees and the bees are crucial in the polinization of the orchard. Without bees we get no fruit!
There were about 20 folks out in the orchard picking and carefully placing in these crates, here is Mark Evans driving a crate of freshly picked apples down to the roadside.
Crates of freshly picked apples waiting to be loaded onto the Flatbed truck, they will be driven about 4 miles down Joyfield Road to the Smeltzers processing facility.
Now we are inside the Smeltzer’s processing facility where the apples are sorted and cleaned. Very impressive operation indeed! Apples that were on the trees this morning will be processed by this afternoon.
These ladies are inspecting fresh apples that have just been cored, peeled, and sliced. The apples will soon be flash frozen and placed in sealed 40 lb containers and stored in their massive freezer. This process enables us at GTPie to use apples harvested from Evans orchards in September all year long! Thanks to our Keith and Mark and your families for all you do for us at GTPie and for the many other customers that you have across the nation!
Now it’s time eat the pie, enjoy!