Why we think the lakes are GREAT!

Spring Break! Something all the kids look forward to. This year, if you planned a trip down south it really paid off. Sometimes I think that in Michigan spring break week is really a break FROM spring! Between the snow and rain to temperatures in the teens I think we all get confused!

We have a unique set of circumstances here along the western side of the state that allows us to grow fruit trees farther north than in neighboring states. We live in the shadow of Lake Michigan, and it’s a moderating factor for our weather. Believe it or not, if it were not for the Big Lake we probably couldn’t grow fruit this far north. The same lake that keeps us warmer in the winter (protecting our fragile fruit trees) also keeps us cooler longer into the spring. This delays the fruit trees spring start and most years keeps them from blooming until the chances of killing frost have past. Most years. There are of course exceptions, and longtime farmers can rattle off those years from memory.

This “Lake Effect” is a factor along some of the other areas as well. The map below shows the areas that fruit is grown in the Great Lakes region. Notice where the highest concentrations are, on the warmer downwind side of the lakes. This didn’t just happen by chance. Over the last 150-200 years farmers recognized the climate was different in these area and afforded them opportunities that weren’t available even 50-75 miles away from the lake. Fruit is grown far north as Traverse City and Northern Ontario in a relatively narrow band of counties close to the lakes.

orchard-map

Our soils and climate here on the west coast of Michigan help us to produce apples, peaches and other fruits that have exceptional quality and flavor. So we really do live in the GREAT lake state! So even though we have to put up with some less than ideal spring breaks sometimes, remember that Lake Michigan is not only a great place to swim, boat, fish, and watch sunsets. It is also the reason we can crunch a fresh apple in the fall!

Hope you have a fruitful week!
Tom Moelker

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