Residents still heading out to Genesee County orchards despite small apple crop

By Roberto Acosta |
September 30, 2012

MONTROSE TOWNSHIP, MI – With dashes of red, orange and yellow painted on leaves by Mother Nature along Seymour Road, Flushing resident Jennie Dumas stood outside Montrose Orchards on a mild fall day as her four-year-old daughter Kiera walked between the rows of large orange pumpkins.

“Alright pumpkin, is that good?” she said to Kiera, who picked out a pumpkin near as large as her small frame to stencil a Michigan State football design on at home.The family was one of dozens walking the animal display, bumping along on the hay ride, picking out pumpkins, gourds or sampling apple cider and freshly made donuts at the three generations old location.

Dan Hill, owner of the facility along with his wife Debbie Hill, said despite a 10 percent apple crop residents continue to head out to pick up bags of Honeycrisp, Jonathon, Golden Delicious and other varieties of apples located in a cooled section behind a dangling curtain of thick plastic strips.

“There’s some places not opening,” he said, whose family has owned the more than 150 acre site since 1925, when his grandfather James Hill bought the location from a Flushing attorney and the business under Dan’s father Don Hill. “We’re opening, but we’re buying other apples from growers, Michigan apples.”

Harvest season for apples typically runs from mid-August until the middle of October, but Hill said in talks with other farmers they expect to wrap up the season in the next few days.

Hill noted Michigan is also a production state for apples, with crops used for pies, cider and other products which will make the limited available crop that much more of a scarce and pricier quantity for consumers.

He expected a potential bumper crop next year, which Hill said typically happens after a down year and may drive prices the other direction.

Residents are still turning out in large numbers however to the community staple for apples, as well as other crops less affected during this year’s growing season, such as blueberries and pumpkins.

“We try to have a little bit of a variety of things,” said Hill, with crafts, a bakery named in his wife’s honor pumping out donuts, pies, cookies and caramel apples.

Burton resident Vince Bontumasi was out in Montrose with his family, walking through the animal section and taking a lap around the store area set up inside a large barn.

“We haven’t been out here in a couple of years. The hayride was nice,” he said, adding his crops of apples had also been decimated by a late spring freeze. “I have apple trees in my yard. I didn’t have any on them.”

Hill said the business is more directed towards family and children, with school groups coming in throughout the fall to get some agricultural education.

For Jennie, a third-grade teacher in Clio schools, the pace was just fine for her and her daughter as they headed inside to sip on freshly made cider and donuts.

“Coming out here and choosing the pumpkin and carving the pumpkin together,” she said. “It’s just another activity we can do together (as a family).”

Read on MLive

Photo Credit Griffin Moores |