When it comes to autumn in Mid Michigan, “awesome” doesn’t even begin to cover it. However, it definitely defines what you will find at Almar Orchards in Flushing. From their organic apples to their fresh cider and honey, this orchard is well worth the trip off the beaten path.
Almar Orchards has been around for generations. While Jim Koan is the current owner, his family has been raising apples since the mid 1800s. However, it’s only been in the last 20 years that this farm has been producing some of the best organic apples in the state. When asked why he switched from conventional farming to organic, Jim answered that is was simply because the customers asked. What started with just a few acres to meet customer demand turned into over 150 acres of 100% organic farm land.
Walking with Jim through his orchards is not only beautiful, but a lesson in history and science. Did you know that there are 1,000 varieties of apples in the world, 50 of which can be found at Almar Orchards? And while Jim and his family have been around for over a hundred years, they are still innovators in the orchard industry. He works with Michigan State University in agriculture research and is breeding a new variety of apple that may remain crisp months after picking, well into December.
More than the science and the history, it’s the passion that Jim has for organic farming and the farm that truly stands out. Not just to me but to customers as well. Jim explained that he has seen generations of families come to his orchard, all because of their mission of “Quality Over Quantity.” Delicious donuts and cider are a draw for old and young alike.
The environment at the orchard is relaxed and inviting. One of the family’s two dogs will most likely greet you at the entrance if they’re not already sitting in the parking lot. While there are no hayrides or petting zoos, there is a large playscape for children to play on while parents enjoy their cider and donuts. Quite honestly, the staff is so friendly that you feel like you could talk to them forever.
While many come for the fresh cider, donuts, and local honey, there are many other reasons to visit Almar Orchards. They sell Eden Organic products in their store, as well as organic butter and milk. They even sell Michigan made organic tortilla chips.
One of the most recent big draws for the orchard is their hard cider line called JK Scrumpy’s. This 100% organic, sulfite and preservative free hard cider is the best I’ve ever tasted. Jim explained that they don’t rush the hard cider process by heating it as many others do. They let is steep with yeast at 55 degrees, letting it take the time it needs so that the flavors just pop on your tongue. With five different flavors, you’ll be sure to find one that suits your taste buds.
Almar Orchards and their chard cider are also the third leg of the “Thirsty 3,” which is proudly advertised as a “Not-So-Serious Racing Series”. Finishers of the Scrumpy Skedaddle receive a commemorative glass, medal (which doubles as a bottle opener) and a delicious serving of their hard—or soft—cider. Complete with pancake breakfast, it’s another great tradition that highlights the beauty of this orchard.
As interest in their hard cider has grown, so has their property. Jim and his family now have a large facility where they have moved their cider production. However, this large barn is still in the making and they don’t plan to stop with just hard cider. When it is completed, the facility will also contain a small farm-to-fork restaurant featuring barbecue items on its menu.
One of the unique things about Almar Orchards is the pigs that Jim uses to maintain the insects at the orchards. These hogs live primarily on a diet of apples, and all that sweetness of the apple renders some of the sweetest organic pork you’ll ever find. They will be the main feature on the menu, and you’ll be able to enjoy your ribs with a glass of cider and sit out on the patio while your kids enjoy themselves on the playground.