THREE RIVERS, MI — In southwest Michigan near the Indiana state line is a local shopping experience that is second to none with fresh produce, quality baked goods, a cider mill and distillery, gift items, honey, cheese, eggs, meat, and yogurt. They also offer several u-pick opportunities throughout the season and tastings of their locally-produced wines and ciders.
Corey Lake Orchards began in 1961 when Dayton and Allene Hubbard purchased Fabius Farms in Three Rivers, MI and later renamed it Corey Lake Orchards. Through the years, value-added products built up the business that continues today. Excess apples prompted the addition of a cider mill. A greenhouse operation was installed to provide early tomatoes. A local asparagus farm was acquired to add to the growing list of fresh produce available in season. They connected with the Welch grape juice company and became a grower for them.
The farm market on the property is stocked with seasonal produce raised on the farm. The original intent was to diversify their holdings in order to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for most of the year and they have become quite successful. Throughout the growing season, they offer bedding plants, beets, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, greens, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, onions, peaches, pears, plums, rhubarb, squash and sweet corn. In addition, their u-pick operation allows for people to pick their own apples, beans, blueberries, cherries, flowers, grapes, herbs, peppers, pumpkins, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Value-added products from their own produce has become a favorite with their regular and new customers. Apple cider is available along with hard ciders and other alcoholic beverages, appreciating the abundance of fruits and herbs. An on-site bakery reflects the seasons with fall favorites like apple cider and pumpkin donuts making an appearance now along with homemade apple dumplings. A fun addition is the slushie machine which provides grape juice or apple cider frozen drinks.
In 2009, Dayton’s daughter Beth Hubbard became the farm manager, continuing the work her parents started. She is a firm believer in the importance of agri-tourism and serves on several non-profit agricultural boards. Hubbard is an active part of the farm and the daily operations connected with it, but after they close down in the beginning to mid-November, she takes the opportunity to catch up with the networks of farmers and the work they are doing, especially in Michigan.
“During our open season, we like to offer a homey, comfortable experience,” Hubbard said. “It is more than just a shopping experience. We answer questions, offer advice, and try to be really helpful. Everything is kept clean and tidy. But the ultimate goal is to encourage people to buy local in order to eat better.”
The orchard is open from May until November with homemade pie orders being some of their last business interactions for the year. Their website, www.coreylakeorchards.com, is updated regularly with the most current information about what is available and in season. They are busy preparing for the annual Three Rivers Area Fall Color Tour on October 8 from 10 am until 5 pm where apples and samples will be offered along with other seasonal produce. They are one of several farm or agricultural settings that will be offering a harvest experience on that day within the Three Rivers (MI) area. There will be special activities for the day long event including their farm-style playground for the children, tastings for the adults, and an enjoyable time for the entire family, but that is just another day at Corey Lake Orchards.