Moore Orchards open this fall

After being closed for two years, Moore Orchards will reopen their Apple Haus this fall. The small shop is located on Sasse Road, just five miles south of Midland. Steve Heilig, the orchard’s manager, says the COVID-19 virus in 2020 and a frost that “wiped us out completely” in 2021 kept the shop closed. Heilig works for Terry and Carleen Moore, the orchard’s owners.
The Apple Haus will be open Thursdays-Saturdays, September 29-November 5, 9am-5pm.
This year, they’re looking at a huge harvest. In an article published in the Michigan Farm News, a record crop is projected at 30 million bushels in the state, almost double last year’s crop of just over 15.6 million bushels and several million more than the average of 24 million. Michigan trails only Washington and New York among states with the most apples produced. Heilig says, “There was no spring frost. The blooms were great. The bees worked well..great growing season. Best since 2016.”

The Apple Haus is scheduled to open September 29 and will remain open through November 5, three days per week, Thursdays through Saturdays, 9am-5pm. Heilig’s wife, Julie, will manage the shop. Heilig says it will feature up to 25 varieties of apples for sale at any one time. As apples ripen, they’ll add two to three varieties each week. Apples can be purchased in several different volumes, ranging from a half-peck, which is a small bag that can hold up to 10 apples depending on their size, up to a bushel, which holds about 42 pounds of apples. Hot and cold cider will also be for sale as well as apple cider donuts. Moore says, “They are as good as anything ever to come across your lips.”
Opalescent is a dark red, all purpose apple, introduced in 1880.
Moore Orchards has 2,500 trees covering 22 acres. They feature 90 different varieties of apples. A portion of the property was owned by Moore’s dad, Albert, and had just six apple trees. Moore added trees including over 1,200 in a two-year span in the early 1990’s. 

This year, they’ve added snow sweets and crimson crisps. It can take up to five years for a tree to first bear fruit. A Northern Spy can take 16 years to produce apples. The process to start a new tree involves taking a scion, or one to two foot branch from a tree, and grafting it onto root stock. That then grows one to two feet per year. Most of their trees are considered semi-dwarf, reaching a height of 15 feet. If they’re smaller, a dwarf tree, deer are a major concern. They stake and fence any new trees. Moore says, “If we don’t, it is gone.” They also install a small black sleeve at the bottom of young trees for protection against mice. The largest trees, called standards, can reach a height of 25 feet. Heilig and Moore say those become difficult to manage.
The apples are sent through the washer/scrubber.
Moore says they use a “minimum amount” of spray, insecticides and fungicides, to treat the apples. Their main concern is apple scab, a fungus. No machinery is used to harvest the apples. They’re all handpicked.  Referring to himself, Heilig, and a third staff member, Moore says, “These are the machines right here.” After being picked, the apples are run through a washer/scrubber, and then are sorted by hand. Any apple that falls to the ground either stays on the ground or is used as feed for livestock. A big concern this time of year is hail which can damage a crop waiting to be harvested. The trees locally are stressed right now because there hasn’t been enough rain. Apples and leaves are starting to fall to the ground.

The orchard kept Moore, a Midland native, busy outside of his regular job, serving for 31 years as the president of MidMichigan Health Systems.  Helig jokes, “It’s a very expensive hobby.”  Moore is known for telling a story about the first steps to take if you plan to own your own apple orchard. It involves buying a Shop-Vac, taking it home, plugging it in, and then turning it on to suck all the money out of your wallet. Moore adds, “Make sure to throw it (the money) away at the end of the year.”

Terry Moore & Steve Heilig tour Moore Orchards.
Moore admits he made some mistakes when he was planting trees in the beginning, “Wrong distance, wrong varieties, wrong root stock. I didn’t spend a lot of time planning.” Heilig adds with a laugh, ‘It’s a learning experience every year.” 

Heilig retired in February after a 25-year-career, also at what’s now called MyMichigan Health. He was the landscape supervisor.  He’s worked for the orchard, also for 25 years. Heilig, a Sanford-Meridian High grad, says, “They needed somebody to come out and help them. I never left.”  He now owns a 33-acre property just north of Moore Orchards.  He has 100 trees with seven different varieties of apples. 
Steve Heilig is the manager of Moore Orchards and has worked there for 25 years.
Heilig and Moore share a passion for the apples and a lot of knowledge. They encourage bakers to mix a variety of apples when making a pie. The same for cider and applesauce. Moore says, “Add a Jonathan for flavor.” Heilig says, “Cortlands are an old standby for pies.”  Other pie favorites include 20 ounces, Northern Spy, and Opalescents. Moore says, “You can’t find them anywhere else.”

To learn more about Moore Orchards, keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates this fall. There are two other orchards located near Midland. Apple Blossom Orchard, located on Wilder Road in Williams Township, just east of Midland, and Jacques Orchard, located on Iva Road, northwest of Hemlock. Both have shops that are open for the fall season.


Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."