Every year, the Country Mill celebrates all things apple at its Michigan Apple Festival. This year though, was a year to be thankful.
"This has been a blessing from last year," said Steve Tennes, owner of The Country Mill in Charlotte. "Obviously we were really blessed to have apples on the trees this year. We're just enjoying the bounty of opening our farm to the general public to be able to come out and enjoy this apple harvest for 2013."
People of all ages filled their bags to the brim. Lines inside the store were as long as the building itself.
After a devastating spring that nearly eliminated the entire apple crop at The Country Mill, Tennes says the orchard has rebounded beautifully. His orchard's success is part of one of the largest apple crops in Michigan history. State-wide, the yield is ten times as large as last year.
"Last year was a good reality check for everyone to realize you can't take anything for granted and that apples don't grow on shelves, they grow on trees," said Tennes. "And sometimes Mother Nature tells us she is still in control."
The difference, Tennes said, is a cool March and April, which didn't allow trees to bloom prematurely.
Apple pickers out with their families Saturday said they noticed the lack of fruit last year.
"The apples are really thick this year," said Ryan Dinsmore of Grand Ledge. "Last year we came and we'd get one or two apples is all. We came in September last year and there's hardly any apples at all, so it's been nice to be able to enjoy the apples again this year."
And people say they're enjoying lower prices for apple products too.
"Last year was like sticker shock anywhere you looked for apples, at the apple orchard fresh or grocery store," said Valerie Freeman, who visits The Country Mill every year from Lansing. "This year they're much more affordable."
Steve Tennes says all apples are good apples this year. Pies, cider and all other apple products should be sweet. Honeycrisp apples will be especially good this year, he said.
And Tennes says in a volatile business, he'll enjoy the success while he can.
"For us as farmers, it's our livelihood," he said. "So we just feel blessed we actually have a crop we can harvest this year. We're just hoping that next year will be as good as this year."