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“Abbey the Intern” – Learning the Ins and Outs of the Michigan Apple Industry

Getting an internship is critical when wanting to stand out from your competitors. Since I started here at the Michigan Apple Committee (MAC), I have been expanding my knowledge in communication and public relations, as well as learning the skills necessary to succeed in an office (e.g., making deadlines, working with different computer programs, multitasking, etc.).

I remember the day I got the phone call from my supervisor, Gretchen, offering me the internship. Elated, I quickly responded with an “Absolutely!” All of my hard work and long hours at the library were finally starting to pay off. Sure, we have all heard those horror stories about interns fetching coffee, but luckily for me, I had landed myself a position with an organization that truly wants me to succeed.

My first trip to BelleHarvest Sales Inc.

Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, MAC took me on a fieldtrip to BelleHarvest Sales Inc. /Belding Fruit Storage, one of our apple packing and shipping facilities in Belding, Mich. President and General Manager Mike Rothwell showed us around the facility, giving us an in-depth tour of what happens to an apple from the moment it’s picked to the time it reaches the retailer. This experience not only enriched my understanding of the Michigan apple industry, but it increased my appreciation of all the hard work that is put into harvesting and promoting Michigan apples.

BelleHarvest started in the 1950’s when apple production was high. Growers needed one single point of contact to keep quality consistency and uniform packaging. After pulling together their resources and partnering with Michigan State University researchers, BelleHarvest was born. BelleHarvest is one of the largest fresh apple vendors in the eastern U.S., with more than 1 million apples going through Belding Fruit Storage’s packing line each day.

An interesting fact that I remembered from the tour was learning about the CA (controlled atmosphere) rooms. These chilly, air-tight rooms are vital for apple preservation, and have oxygen levels that are kept between 1-1.5 percent. CA rooms help apples to respire, or “go to sleep”. Apples can be in these rooms for as little as a few weeks (mid-term storage) to as long as a year (long-term storage).

Another interesting thing I learned was that apples are put through a Compac machine, which scans each apple for flaws through pictures, measurements and infrareds (x-rays). I found this particularly fascinating, because I never realized how much work and effort is put into providing consumers with the best looking/tasting Michigan apples!

Having this internship has already taught me so much, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me next!