BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s fruit acreage continues to evolve with the addition of saskatoons and hops in the most recent Small Fruit and Hops Survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Other fruit included in the most recent survey include brambles, grapes, and strawberries.
The survey found that there are currently 40 acres of saskatoon berries planted commercially in Michigan. The most common variety being planted is Northline and more than half of the acreage has been planted in the last 5 years. Support for saskatoon growers has also dramatically increased in the last few years, with educational programming being regularly provided by Michigan State University Extension.
Hops, the other new addition to the survey, has also been growing in popularity in Michigan. The Michigan State Horticultural Society, which wrote the Specialty Crop Block Grant through which this survey was funded, recognized that while hops are not considered a fruit, they are an important part of the Michigan agricultural economy. The data collected indicated that there are 68 farms growing 670 acres of hops. The two most popular varieties are Centennial and Cascade, but there are over 50 different varieties currently in production in Michigan. More than 80% of the hops acres have been planted in the last 6 years.
The grape report showed interesting developments. The juice grape acreage declined due to Welch’s grape growers being offered the opportunity to have their contracts bought back. Several growers nearing retirement decided that was the best option for their farm and bowed out of the cooperative. Wine grape growers, on the other hand, have been planting more vinifera and hybrid wine grapes. That acreage has increased by over 300 acres since the last survey.
Rounding out the list, brambles and strawberries both showed declines in the planted acres due in large part to the high amount of hand labor required to maintain and harvest those crops. Labor has been Michigan fruit grower’s main concern for the past 5 years. Finding individuals willing to work picking fruit is always a challenge.
The regular survey of the Michigan fruit industry is a valuable tool for growers as they decide which variety to plant, for researchers and extension agents as they plan how to best support the Michigan fruit industry and for policy makers as they evaluate the needs of growers now and in the future.
— Ben Smith
Michigan State Horticultural Society
For more news from Michigan, click here.