(Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki/DETROIT FREE PRESS) Finally, some good news for consumers about Michigan crops after a summer of agriculture disasters brought on by heat, frost and drought.
Although some Christmas trees were a victim of the year's wild weather, Michigan growers say it's unlikely to affect consumers.
And pumpkins are enjoying a bumper year, despite being nipped by drought and heat earlier in the summer.
That's welcome news for consumers who have been paying higher prices for fruit after this year's crops of Michigan apples, peaches and cherries were nearly wiped out by unseasonably warm March weather followed by several nights of freezes that killed the earlier-than-normal buds on fruit trees.
The Christmas tree casualties were the tiny seedlings planted this year, not the mature trees to be harvested for the coming Christmas.
Frank Rimi lost 30% to 50% of the more than 2,000 seedlings he planted at his Addison-Oaks Christmas Tree Farm in Oakland Township. The trees were killed after a triple weather whammy: the same warm and cold cycle that killed the fruit crops, plus unusually hot summer days and the drought, Rimi said.
"You always plant more than you expect to sell," Rimi said. "But that's pretty significant. Normally you wouldn't expect to lose that much."
However, it takes 8-10 years for a tree to mature to Christmas size. Growers will plant additional trees next year to make up for this year's loss, and in the intervening years, the tree harvests will even out and not leave a gap when the lost trees would have matured, said Marsha Gray, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.
"We certainly were impacted by the drought and as much by the heat as the drought, but we want consumers to be confident it doesn't impact the large trees that are ready to harvest," Gray said.
Michigan is third in the U.S. in the number of Christmas trees harvested, and produces more varieties of Christmas trees than any other state.
Before Christmas, however, comes Halloween, and this year's pumpkin crop is turning out to be a very good one despite the heat and drought.
"We've got a great crop of pumpkins this year. They look really good," said Glen Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Farms in Holly, which has been in his family for 175 years.
There was a time during the summer when Mitchell wasn't sure this year's pumpkin crop would make it.
"We were extremely dry for like a month and a half, but then we started getting moisture and things revived -- amazingly, because it didn't look possible," Mitchell said.
Michigan was on the outer edge of the summer drought that affected so much of the country's midsection. The counties near the Indiana border were the most affected, with the drought conditions lessening as you go north. Some areas in northern Michigan even had more rainfall than usual.
Michigan's fruit tree crop was perhaps the most impacted by this year's weather. An estimated 95% of Michigan peaches, 90% of apples and 85% of cherries were lost.
That has led to higher prices for consumers because local orchards and cider mills had to buy apples from elsewhere. Industry officials say apples are about 30% to 50% more expensive than last year, and cider costs about 50% more than last year.