RidgeFest 2019 was held Aug. 1 by the Michigan Pomesters group. Although the event is traditionally a tour of farms in “The Ridge” fruit growing region around Sparta, Michigan, this year the group got in buses and traveled down to Southwest Michigan to visit growers there.
Farms visited were Molter Produce in Bainbridge Township near Benton Harbor, Michigan and High Acres Fruit Farm near Hartford. Attendees also toured Hilltop Fruit Trees near Decatur and Virtue Cider near Fennville.
– Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor
The Conklin-Sparta-Belding group gets on buses for a ride to SW Michigan for RidgeFest 2019.
Molter Produce owners Aaron and Kari Molter hosted the first stop on RidgeFest 2019.
Aaron Molter discussed his experiences in growing organic apples.
Molter Produce used steel supports for its trellis. Aaron Molter said there are rules about using treated lumber in organic orchards.
Hilltop Fruit Trees nursery was the second stop on RidgeFest 2019. From the left are Adam Rodriguez, Zack Cross, and owner Steve Flamm.
Hilltop Fruit Trees Owner Steve Flamm said that the company is focussing on providing apple trees to Michigan growers.
Hilltop Fruit Trees was in the process of chip-budding sign wood to rootstocks.
A crew can graft about 30,000 trees in a day, Flamm said.
The grafting crews worked in pairs, with one crew member cutting the tree and inserting the bud, and another wrapping the graft.
A couple of finished grafts.
Lunch was at the Strand Brewing Co in Dowagiac.
High Acres Fruit Farm was the third stop on RidgeFest 2019. Pictured are Trever Meachum and his son.
Meachum spoke about irrigation on the farm and the difference in climate between Southwest Michigan and Sparta, Michigan.
The Meachums use a reflective white cloth to help the color of the apples. The sheets are held in place by bungee cables and can be ridden over by tractors, they said.
The tour ended at Virtue Cider in Fennville, Michigan. Cidermaker Seth Boeve gave the growers a tour of their hard cider fermentation facility. Their production has twice doubled in recent years, he said.
Some of the tour attendees gathered for a group photo.