Cider Costs: What The Apple Is Going On Here?

Fall and apples go hand in hand here in Michigan, as I know is the case in many other parts of the country.

We have always enjoyed many of the activities that fall brings, and those centered around apples have always been favorite, specifically going to the cider mill and also apple picking.  Both of these things have been traditions of our families for the last few years.

But, we noticed this year that things are just out of hand!

Cider Prices

Who doesn’t love cider and donuts?  I know everyone in our family loves these things.  Still, the price of cider these days is through the roof.  A gallon is now around $8 at most local cider mills!  This pricing came about in kind of a sneaky way.

In 2012, Michigan had an incredibly warm March.  Temperatures averaged low 70’s for roughly a two week period. This was about 30 degrees warmer than normal.  The apple trees started blooming earlier than normal, as is normal with these temperatures.  Unfortunately, when the cold weather came back in, many trees were damaged for the year.

In short, the harvest in 2012 was a dud, and prices of apples and cider went up as the crop was down 75% in many areas.  Prices for a gallon of cider went up from around $5 to $7.

Now, 2013 and 2014 produced bumper crops of apples, but do you think the prices went back down?


I really get bothered by these types of opportunistic price increases, but they’re not surprising, and even though I’m sure there wasn’t direct collusion between cider mill owners, I’m sure that they all just decided to put out their prices as they were the year past and see what happened, and unfortunately nobody complained.  And now we’re left with cider prices that are much higher than they probably should be.

And, to top it off, some of the cider mills have gotten greedy.  There’s one local mill (Long’s Family Farm) that actually charges you for plastic cups if you want to buy your cider and sit outside.  Talk about greed!

Picking Prices

Long’s was also our favorite spot to pick apples.  They had a pretty sweet setup where you came in, parked, and took a hayride out to the picking area.  Our family generally got a large bag.  The fun and experience, plus the apples, were worth the $25 or so.

mb-2015-10-appleSadly, it’s not that easy anymore.  They now have a policy where every person that goes to pick apples has to buy their own bag.  Even kids.  So, instead of our family buying one large bag for around $25, we could get four small bags for roughly the same price. The only problem is that you end up with roughly half the amount of apples in four smaller bags as you do with one larger bag.

And, to add insult to injury, it’s been reported that when you go back, if your bag is above the top line, they’ll charge you for yet another bag!  After all, if you’re going to effectively double the price of your product, why not effectively throw sand in their face while you’re at it?

Sadly, our annual visit to this mill and orchard was crossed off the list.

Our Alternative

We found a new cider mill that we tried this year (Rochester Cider Mill).  The prices were around the same, but there’s no getting around that, but it was very laid back.  They had areas for the kids to play, and while you were in there, you didn’t get the sense that they were looking at you with dollar signs in their eyes, as has turned into the case with other nearby mills and orchards.  We loved it!

We ended up skipping apple picking this year.  Hopefully we can resume this at some point, but it will either have to be at a new orchard or if the old place we went to changes their minds.  This year, we have gotten our apples at the grocery store.  It’s not as much fun, but in the end, we’re satisfied with the product and we can justify the prices.  Our goal is to still have fun, just maybe in other ways.  The kids are now old enough that they can help bake pies or make crisp.  Yum!

A Deep History

Many of the mills and orchards in our area is that they are very old, with decades of tradition and history.  That’s all great and it makes for great stories.  However, I can’t help but think that charging for cups and napkins goes against the established traditions.  Was this kind of business what the founders had in mind?  It seems awfully hard to believe.

Readers, do you love apples and fall like we do?  Have you seen your local businesses stay true to their history or has commercialization and profit taken over?  Tell me your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

7 thoughts on “Cider Costs: What The Apple Is Going On Here?”

  1. What a sad but interesting story…I have a similar experience here but with a saw mill. The local sawmill has been around for years and was run by a great guy. Our family has bought fence boards, had custom work done for fireplace mantels and even picked up “ends for firewood”. Well the “great guy” passed away and the operation was taken over by his son-in-law who made many changes. And decided they are only gonna make mulch which is evidently very profitable and cease making lumber. They laid a bunch of looong time employees off. But because they were no longer buying timber for lumber there was nothing to make mulch with as timber sellers found other markets. Now I understand they are trying to start up the lumber business once more. But the damage is done….there is a whole different feel to the place…Like your story….very sad….

    • Yeah, whenever there is a change in regime, so to speak, it seems change is inevitable. People often fail to heed the advice that messing with a good thing isn’t necessary.

  2. We went apple picking a few weeks back…my wife wanted to bring our toddler…I’m not a big fan of apple picking to be honest.. The place we went to charged $30 for a bag…I think it was $25 when we went 2 years ago. I looked at other places because I didn’t want to drive that far =)…but I saw yelp reviewers saying that certain places require each person to buy a bag and would also check your bag as well as your personal bag to make sure you didn’t “steal” more apples. That’s no fun. The place we went to just checked the trunk (where the bag of apples were) to make sure you didn’t bring a trunk full home. He didn’t care that my wife stuffed the bag completely full where it was about to burst!

  3. I LOVE apples – and apple pies in particular. I don’t like the money grab when it comes to this type of business. They are at their best with an unsophisticated, laid-back approach. We go to farms to get away from the business models we find in urban and suburban areas – not to see them copied.

  4. Apples are really great! I love apples. Apple picking is one of the activities I enjoyed. I remember when we visited a plantation last few years ago, apples were not that expensive compared with them now. I don’t know the factors that affected its price. That’s why apple cider vinegar is so expensive nowadays.

  5. It is okay for Wall Street, but not a local farmer who lives on a seasonal income? You could say the same for web sites. Back in my day, we had sites with no sponsorship or income, freely sharing everything and anything. I am not even bitter that due to that naivity, others sites stole and monetized most of my content. I am bitter that now the big news outlets are demanding you to sign in using some other monetized site, allowing only inane comments from people who have already given up a lot a freedoms for convenience.
    Like the big gas retailers claiming shortages while having tankers full of gas at sea, it does seem wrong to price gouge. But these orchards may be paying higher property taxes, inspection fees, and other cost. Supply versus demand, with a higher population density may also be involved. Having independent farms and orchards is important, but if you find the service is not worth the price you should do as you are, and find a better venue. It is a shame that intolerance and mistrust has entered into the transactions, but there seems to a lot of intolerance going around now that we can all have a public voice. It is a pity.

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