Skip to main content

- Advertisement -

A penchant to innovate sets Applewood Fresh Growers up for success

By
Kyle Eberth

Growing apples in southeast Michigan is a year-long venture for the Swindeman family — owners and operators of Applewood Orchards and Applewood Fresh Growers. “We start working on next year’s crop almost immediately after the current crop is harvested,” said Michael Swindeman, a grower at Applewood Orchards. “The orchards are mowed, irrigation systems are winterized, equipment maintenance is performed and construction of new trellis systems begin for spring’s new plantings.”

Swindeman gave a year-long look at Applewood’s operational plan, outlining key sets the grower-shipper follows for a successful next crop.

“Once winter’s extreme lows pass, we begin our dormant pruning,” said Swindeman, as pruning is the first step in adjusting crop load. “We reduce the number of flower buds in the trees to a target amount depending on yield goals for a specific variety and age of the orchard.”

Once trees begin to show some green, Applewood begins its pest and disease mitigation procedures. Applewood practices Integrated Pest Management to determine if and when plant protection materials need to be applied. “In early spring, we begin monitoring for frost protection and keep apple critical temperatures top of mind,” said Swindeman.

Excitement for the coming season is tangible as the calendar turns to May, and Applewood’s orchards begin to bloom. “Apple bloom is here,and bees are brought in to jump-start pollination,” said Swindeman.

During this time, Applewood deploys its hail netting, makes routine checks of irrigation systems, and continues the hand thinning of its blocks, adjusting again for crop load. “If the goal is 80 apples per tree, we aim to prune to leave no more than two times the bud load, so 160 flower buds or potential fruitlets,” he said, explaining most buds will have five flowers, equating to 800 potential fruitlets. “In other words there’s a lot to get knocked off.”

Swindeman highlighted the importance of embracing technology in the orchard. Applewood utilizes machine imaging to assist with crop estimates and load management, hail netting for damage mitigation, and energy efficient solar panels on its new pack facilities. “Technology continues to improve, I don’t think the industry is far from being able to have reliable driverless equipment such as planters and mowers,” he said.

The Swindeman family has been known for its pioneer spirit and innovative approach to growing apples in Michigan. Shelby Babcock, marketing and sales specialist said, “the Swindemans were among the first to bring CA rooms to the state of Michigan and installed one of the first apple washer-waxing systems in the country back in the late 50s. Applewood continues to be a leader within the apple industry, continually looking to see how they can get a better crop outcome and increase the overall consumption of flavorful Michigan apples.”

While the summer months lend time for maintenance of the orchard floor and some light pruning, Swindeman said, at this point it’s all about irrigation, as targeted drip systems need consistent monitoring in Applewood’s high-density orchards.

August through October means harvest at Applewood, as early season variety Rave came off the tree around the first week of August. Applewood followed up the early start with its premiere offerings of Honeycrisp and SweetTango, starting up in late August. “Once that hits we’re really having fun and in full-blown harvest mode until late October,” said Swindeman.

Applewood Fresh Growers is a fourth-generation grower-packer, based out of Sparta, MI, and an industry leader within the branded, premiere apple category.

Kyle Eberth

Kyle Eberth

About Kyle Eberth  |  email

Kyle Eberth is new to the produce industry, but has grown up around it, in proclaimed "Apple Capitol of the World," Wenatchee, WA. For the past 14-years he has worked in the non-profit sector with an emphasis on brand storytelling, community engagement, and donor relationships.

Kyle graduated from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) in 2007. He and wife Kelsey were married shortly thereafter, when they moved to Wenatchee to launch their careers.  Kyle is "Dad" to Brooklyn and Hudson, together the Eberths enjoy skiing, biking, their family and friends, and playing together in the beautiful place they get to live.

Tagged in:

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -