Today’s guest blog post comes from our friends at the Michigan Apple Committee. Learn more about one of the many growers they work with, the Youngquist family!
Youngquist Farm is a 180-acre orchard, located on the “Fruit Ridge” in Kent City, MI. Mark Youngquist, a 5th generation grower, works alongside his father, Wayne Youngquist and son, Jordan Youngquist on their family-operated farm. While Mark’s great-grandfather originally purchased the land, it was his grandfather, Carlton, who planted the first orchard.
The “Fruit Ridge” is 158 square miles of thriving agriculture in western Michigan. The Ridge is about 30 miles from Lake Michigan and elevations are over 800 feet, creating a unique landscape that is ideal for growing fruit.
“I’ve always known I wanted to farm”, said Mark Youngquist. “It’s been a privilege to farm with my father. He’s got a reputation of being very careful and prudent and he’s left an easy path for me to follow in that department.”
Family is of the utmost importance to the Youngquists. Jordan’s son, at age six, has already expressed interest in continuing the family tradition, telling people he has been working on the farm, just like his great-grandfather, grandfather and dad.
“You can be grounded in the old disciplines, but keep up with the new stuff,” said Mark Youngquist. “It almost requires multiple generations to stay on top of things.”
While still maintaining old traditions of growing premium quality apples, the Youngquists are now experimenting with new growing techniques, such as high-density plantings. When Mark’s grandfather, Carlton, was farming the land, he had approximately 30 trees per acre. Now, with high-density plantings, Youngquist Farm grows about 1,000 trees per acre.
“I think you get it in your blood that you want to do better every year,” said Wayne Youngquist.
The Youngquists grow twelve varieties of apples, including Gala, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Jonathon, Ginger Gold, Cortland, Rome, Fuji and Ida Red. They have been aggressively re-planting their orchard with new varieties as well as traditional varieties.
“The responsibility of keeping the Youngquist name what they’ve built it up to be is a lot of weight on my shoulders, but they’ve laid a great path for me to step into,” said Jordan Youngquist.
Mark is currently is the vice chairman of the Michigan Apple Committee, and serves on the board of directors for the Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Association.