How do you like them apples?

'Cultivate Michigan' promotes Michigan fruit with orchard tour for institutional food service directors

Apples are big in Michigan, and autumn is their biggest season.

The apple blossom is the state flower, Michigan ranks third in the nation in apple production, and Michigan farmers grow hundreds of varieties to please palates both at home and in larger settings.

Through Cultivate Michigan, a campaign led by the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, more than a dozen institutional food service directors took a tour of Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in northern Macomb county earlier this month for a good look at Michigan apples and products that can be made from them, including cider, sauces, pies, jellies, jams, apple butter and vinegar.

Cultivate Michigan is coordinated by Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food Systems and the Ecology Center, with support from MSU Extension.

“Our guests had a chance to look at the farm’s retail and wholesale operations, including the cider mill, farm market, cider house and winery, the wash, sort and pack lines, cold storage facility, as well as the orchard itself,” according to Hillary Bisnett, director of the Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Health Care program.

Blake’s, founded in 1946, was one of the first “pick your own" orchards in Michigan. Family members who operate the farm fielded questions about their growing practices and experiences with institutional clients and markets from participants in the tour, including school, hospital, and long-term care facility food service directors.

Cultivate Michigan is a statewide local food purchasing campaign targeting institutions, including K-12 schools, hospitals, colleges/universities, early childcare and education settings and long-term care facilities. It supports the Michigan Good Food Charter, which has a goal of helping institutions secure 20 percent of the food they serve from within Michigan by the year 2020.

Apples are the fourth food product featured in the Cultivate Michigan campaign this year, and a guide developed to help institutions learn more about how to find, store and use apples includes this tasty, healthy recipe from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Living Well cookbook.

Cran-Apple Crisp
(six servings)


  • 4 large Michigan apples, thinly sliced
  • 1 16-oz can of whole cranberry sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of butter, melted
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 and 1/3 cups of packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Mix apple slices and cranberry sauce and spoon into an 8x8 inch baking dish.
  3. Mix the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, add melted butter and mix well. Sprinkle over the fruit and bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Bake uncovered for an additional 10 more minutes, or until the topping is crisp and brown.
  4. Serve warm or cold.