Riveridge geared for huge apple season

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Riveridge geared for huge apple season

Facing a huge national apple crop year, Don Armock’s philosophy is that it’s good to compete with a huge, high-quality crop of his own.

Armock is president of Riveridge Produce Marketing, based in Sparta, MI. This and his related business interests make him Michigan’s largest apple grower-packer-shipper. “If there are a lot of apples in the market, you’re going to need a lot of good apples to please the consumer and please everyone through the distribution chain,” he says.

Providing a historical context, on Sept. 28, Armock tells FreshFruitPortal.com that his 2023 apple crop – and that of Michigan – is the second largest ever, trailing only 2022. This season, Riveridge has the same acreage but more production because maturing, premium-variety blocks have developed to boost productivity.

He estimates Michigan’s 2023 fresh market apple harvest will bring in between 30 and 32 million bushels. A key difference is that final pack-outs for this new crop should be much better than the 2022 Michigan apple crop.

The strong condition and quality of the 2023 crop come as Mother Nature did no spring pruning with freezes or hail damage. Ideal July and early August rains were followed by warm sunny summer days. Now perfect cool fall temperatures top off the apple crop with color and sweet taste.

“If I had ordered and managed this weather, everyone would think I am a genius,” Armock teases.

This year, Riveridge finished shipping its 2022 bounty just as it was time to start packing the 2023’s new apples. This is good for Riveridge because the packinghouse staff was engaged non-stop so there was no time for a well-organized crew to need to re-start, other than minor breaks for equipment maintenance.

Boujee apple harvest

In packing the 2022 crop, Riveridge had four varieties that were shipped throughout this summer. For the coming year, Armock foresees shipping five varieties until the beginning of 2024’s harvest. These are expected to be Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious and Ambrosia. Ambrosia is noteworthy because this is only the third season for Riveridge to grow and ship the variety, which has rapidly gained popularity. Obviously, Riveridge “made a pretty good-sized bet on Ambrosia” when planting the variety. After insignificant new Ambrosia production in 2021, last year “was a fairly successful year” and this season, Ambrosia’s volume will be up 40 percent. The variety will be a big commercial hit.

Boujee and EverCrisp

A new, patented apple variety being rolled out by Riveridge this fall is Boujee. 

“We have enough volume to learn in the marketplace” about its potential with consumers and retailers. Armock expects to pack 30,000 units. 

Boujee is a flavorful apple with really good taste. It is round and bicolor, with an intense red over a creamy white.

EverCrisp is a popular patented variety produced by Riveridge long enough to have mature trees, which should bring more consistent quality. 

Harvest season 2023

Riveridge is to begin harvesting its Red Delicious crop in the first week of October. In recent years the long-established variety has fallen off in popularity in the face of newer apples. But Armock said Red Delicious never represented more than 50% of his production. Now the variety is about 10-12% of Riveridge’s volume. Armock was in Red Delicious orchards on the evening of Sept. 27, and the fruit was already sweet – with another week to gain brix before harvest. 

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