Spring freeze and summer drought prompt fall tourism drop

Severe spring freezes and summer drought have businesses that depend on fall tourism scrambling to protect their bottom line.
By RICK CALLAHAN Modified: October 8, 2012 at 8:59 pm •  Published: October 9, 2012
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Tuttle Orchards, a central Indiana farm with 30 acres of trees, lost all but about 10 percent of its apple crop in April. Mike Roney, who co-owns the orchard near Greenfield, Ind., said it might have been the worst freeze damage ever at the farm his family has owned for 84 years.

At Crane Orchards, a 120-acre top U-pick tourist destination in Fenville, Mich., co-owner Rob Crane said just 5 percent of his apple crop survived the icy nights on his family's fifth-generation farm a few miles from Lake Michigan. Despite the lack of apples, Crane is hoping people still come to the farm for a hay ride along its lake and rolling hills, to navigate its corn maze or indulge in fruit pies and other homemade treats served at its restaurant.

“The fall is about making memories, family gatherings and outings to see the colors. It's that inner clock that's ticking that wants you to do that before winter,” Crane said. “We're hoping people still come and do that.”

The colors won't be so bright in some places. Felicia Fairchild, executive director of the Saugatuck/Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau in southwestern Michigan, said some drought-stressed trees in her area dropped their leaves early.

But despite a less brilliant landscape and lack of apples, she expected bustling fall business in an area often called the “Art Coast of Michigan” because of Saugatuck and Douglas' art galleries, shopping and bed-and-breakfast inns along Lake Michigan.

“I don't think it's going affect our business at all, but it always adds to it if there's really beautiful foliage,” Fairchild said.

Others in the industry took steps to ensure their fall seasons weren't a total loss.

Greg Hochstedler, who owns the 160-acre Boondocks Farms about 30 miles east of Indianapolis, canceled his corn maze this year because the June planting time coincided with sweltering 100-degree days and the worst drought in decades.

“It was too dry, too dusty. It would have been a waste of seed,” Hochstedler said.

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