Road Trippin': Fall harvest brings a taste of Michigan

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Leaman's Green Applebarn in Freeland. Pictured Oct. 6, 2020. (Photo credit: Ron Hilliard/Mid-Michigan NOW)

SAGINAW, Mich. - Fall harvest has arrived. As families seek outdoor activities, apple orchards and pumpkin patches are seeing an influx.

“Everyone in Michigan loves to go to the apple orchard every year,” said Sara Reisinger, manager of Leaman’s Green Applebarn in Freeland.

She said the pandemic has not slowed crowds.

“We are just as busy as we’ve ever been, maybe if not busier.”

Saginaw Township resident Judy Weigel visited Leaman’s with her granddaughter.

“You’ve got to get some cider, cider donuts and apples,” she said.

Founded in 1889, long gone are the days of having to manually press apples to make cider.

Nowadays, after being inspected and washed multiple times, a grinder turns the apples into chunks, which are crushed with this hydraulic cider press.

“There’s nothing added. There’s nothing taken out,” she said. “So, it is literally the juice from the apple that you’re drinking.”

Reisinger said the orchard grows more than two dozen varieties of apples.

From donuts to family fun, there are all the fall favorites.

“And they have animals. They have mazes. They have this beautiful playground,” said Weigel.

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Across Saginaw County, there is a lot of play on the grounds of Johnson’s Giant Pumpkin Farm in Buena Vista Township.

“Sometimes I think of us as more a donut farm than a pumpkin farm. People love them donuts,” said owner Gerald Johnson.

Catherine Rice, 11, of Taymouth Township loves the goats, which have been described as “goofy” by the farm.

“I pet them. They’re really nice.”

Johnson said weekday crowds have doubled this season.

“They’ve been cooped up for the whole summer, and they want to get out into the fresh air,” he said.

Sam Rice, 14, agreed.

“We’ve been in quarantine for a very long time, and it’s nice to be outside again.”

It was also nice for his 10-year-old brother, Isaac, who liked the farm’s maze.

This year, the corn maze’s design has a message. The trails spell out “COVID, Go Away.”