Fruit grew in great abundance long before Frankfort was here. The Ottawa gathered wild strawberries, raspberries and other fruits besides cultivating corn, squash and beans. The potential for growing fruit where fruit grew wild was clear to everyone who came here. Apple orchards were planted at least as early as the 1860s, and in 1866 Bill Voorheis of Frankfort proved that peaches were hardy enough to grow here; in fact, they thrived.
For years peaches became the staple crop in newly deforested areas until apples took over the number one spot as the slower growing apple trees matured.
As loggers denuded the woods more lands opened up to agriculture. Eventually, sweet cherries and especially sour cherries became the favorite of orchardists – although they continued raising apples, pears, plums, and quinces. Some planted small orchards in town, but many who lived in Frankfort held interests in farms and orchards outside the town limits.
Just as logging made for work in the sawmills, so the fruit orchards and farms around the Betsie River Valley created a need for canning plants.
Armour Canning Company of Chicago opened a plant around 1913, and others followed, including the West Michigan Fruit Products Company in 1923 and Graceland Fruit that continues today.
Besides packing plants, growers shipped fruit by boat, and later by rail and trucks. In addition, cabbage became a major crop in during the 1920’s. Today’s Cabbage Shed restaurant in Elberta once stored the cabbage harvest next to the railroad and the docks on the Bay.
Voice of Clinton W. Smeltzer (1923-2016) describes his first cherry harvest.
Clinton W. Smeltzer describes the sensitive peaches.