Harold Thome is Michigan Pomesters’ Fruit Person of the Year
Harold Thome, a fourth-generation apple grower on Fruit Ridge near Comstock Park, Michigan, was named Fruit Person of the Year by the Michigan Association of Pomesters.
Now 78, Thome has turned management over to son Steve, but he still works on the farm, doing spraying and other chores. “I always enjoy harvest,” he said.
He and his wife, JoAnn, are frequent travelers with the International Fruit Tree Association, and he traces his membership back to 1959, the third year of its founding. He was a director for nine years. He served as president of the Michigan State Horticultural Society in 1993. He has been a member of the Kenowa Pomester Club for many years.
“My advice to other growers is to get out and be involved with the industry," Thome said. "See what other growers are doing locally and all over the world."
Thome has an eye for sports. In the 1980s, he found whole-tree mutations of Empire, IdaRed, and Jonathan in his orchards. Those varieties are declining in popularity now, he said, but the exceptionally red strains he found became commercially successful.
The Thome farm now grows fresh market varieties like Gala, Honeycrisp, and an early strain of Fuji (Aztec). Thome declined to say how many acres they have, but they grow only apples. “We’re not big, and we’re not small,” he said. They sell their fruit through Jack Brown Produce, which provides storage, grading, and sales services.
“We try to stay abreast of new technology and new varieties,” he said. They started planting semi-dwarf trees in the 1960s. Their new high density plantings are on a 3- by 13-feet spacing. They are supported by a two-wire trellis and bamboo stakes and trained to the tall spindle design.
“The Thomes have been pioneers in apple irrigation on the Ridge, starting with sprinklers and progressing to trickle,” said Ed Wittenbach, a Belding, Michigan, grower and long-time friend of Thome, in making the presentation.