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Fall’s Changes – Part 2

Written by Jim Parker

Michigan Apple Fan and Cider Enthusiast

Previously I wrote here on the Michigan Apple website that the fall season brings many changes into our daily lives. Some are a repeat of previous year’s changes. I also stated that now there are some new ones taking place, and from a personal standpoint, these new changes make me happy that we are witnessing them. Most certainly we are in awe of the glorious beauty of the changing leaves and we appreciate dawn being a little earlier. With that opportunity to enjoy the earlier daylight and while traveling the many side roads that take us on our annual trips to our favorite cider mills and apple orchards (and you love animals like I do) you may be lucky enough to witness the beauty of nature with the animal’s scurrying around getting ready for fall and winter themselves. As for those apples and that sweet cider I don’t think you can beat the taste of a crisp Michigan apple washed down by the nectar from them Michigan apple cider. One of the reasons I think it’s easier to do all of this is because the kids and grandkids are now back in school and even though we’re still busy, I feel our daily pace seems to be a little less hectic. That affords us the extra energy to really enjoy the time when we are with the kids. But there is another change that is happening more and more right now and it makes me once again feel delighted that we are witnessing it.

As I stated in my earlier article it’s not just the men that tend to the apple trees, take part in the cider making process, and welcome us when we visit an orchard, farm market or cider mill any longer. Today more and more women are coming to the forefront in the apple and cider business. This could be thanks to the many women within the apple and cider business who for years have been doing just that and have carved a path and given courage to other women today. I’m going to talk about four just such-women but from personal experience there’s a whole lot more than four. This article, and the one before, took route from my over 25 year hobby of visiting and getting to know the history and the people at our many Michigan’s mouth watering and delicious cider mills and orchards.

want to start with Wanda Spicer from Spicer Orchards, Cider Mill and Winery in Fenton. I’ve known Wanda for a long time from going to and enjoying her and husband Al’s cider mill many, many times. She has always greeted me warmly and I know she personally along with market master Will, makes sure I get my Snow apples each fall. They’ve been growing and offering us bushels of wonderful friendship and goodies for 44 years. If you’ve never been there the farm market sits at the top of a hill overlooking their vast orchards, petting farm and fun area. Bring your camera, this mill and its surroundings offer great photo opportunities. She says “loves the work we do and would do it all over again.” She likes working with her family; she says “just as my mom used to say, now I am an extra set of eyes.” Wanda runs the tours and has put soap bars in the over 2000 trees to try and keep the deer away. She’s the bookkeeper, manages the bakery and donut room, plants strawberries, and is a peacekeeper, cuts the grass and “does whatever needs doing.” They get good community support and she said “life’s been good!”

After a great deal of thought on who to spotlight next, Wanda gave me the answer. She told me to make sure I call Linda Erwin, so here goes. Linda from Erwin Orchards, Cider Mill and Haunted Attractions in South Lyon has been greeting and helping folks there for the last 43 years. She is the manager of retail operations, the cider mill, the haunted area and U-Pick. She says “it’s called Agri-tainment.” Linda also helps in the office, oversees all the employees and does school tours. She’s looking forward to their new 28×40 3D barn. Done in black light it’s called Mr. Bee’s Big 3D Adventure. I will do my best to make sure to take my grandkids and nieces there to see it. One of her favorite memories was from a visit from Detroit Red Wings great Vladimir Konstantinov. Another memory was from a Fox Two News visit spotlighting a “Made in Michigan” segment. The orchard is 91 years old; Linda hopes to “see at least 9 more” making it to 100 years. Being another one of my favorite places I hope they and I are still around also.

Chris Diehl from Diehl’s Orchard and Cider Mill in Holly proudly told me their annual Ciderfest is September 24th and 25th this year. It’s with that same excitement that she told me “that she supports husband Mike any way she can” at the mill. After talking to her I can surely say she does just that and a whole lot more. She gives the tours. I know that from firsthand experience because she led a tour of seniors around from The Madison Heights Senior Center in which I was on. The tour includes an excellent video that provokes questions to help make your trip to Diehl’s all the more fun. Chris does the hiring and the training of employees, does the advertising and handles their website. She does public relations and donations. Diehl’s gives surplus items to soup kitchens and domestic abuse shelters. She said “I love working with kids, high school kids and education is my goal!” Quite a busy woman and a fun place don’t you think?

Finally I want to tell you about Karen Koan from Almar Orchards and Cider Mill in Flushing which is close to Flint. First of all she said “she loves people and has fun especially with the little kids.” She designs the mill tours, gets employees in key places, drives the fork lift trucks and blends together different kinds of apples for customers who she says “always ask for her”. She proudly states that husband Jim “counts heavily on me.” Their orchard is an organic orchard and with people trying to eat healthier now it is very timely. But her greatest joy she says is in sorting and grading the apples; she calls it “grouping.” She groups them by size, color and marks on skin. I found her to be very, very enthusiastic about her job and even though I’ve been to Almar Orchards and Cider Mill many, many times, Karen’s zest for her job makes me know I will be back again and again in the future.

Once again here are four women who not only bid us welcome when we visit the orchards and mills but also have taken on a large part of the everyday operations inside and out of the apple and cider industry. But like I said earlier I know there’s more than these four out there. Let us know of other women you feel should be mentioned in a future article. I may not have met them. This will spur me and give me the opportunity to take another glorious and tasty apple cider trip around our great state of Michigan during the fall season. My apple and cider journey has certainly brought many, many other wonderful people into my life besides these. As I write these articles and have said before, I feel I am a very lucky, lucky man!