Shafer Lake Fruit – Curious Innovators in Orchards and Engineering
The Southern outpost of Riveridge packing plants in Michigan is Shafer Lake Fruit, Inc., located in Hartford and owned by a partnership of two forward-looking, apple growing families. Shafer Lake Fruit was established in 1979 to serve the important Southwest Michigan fruit-growing region as a storage, packing and shipping facility for apples. Current ownership is the Hassle family of Berrybrook Enterprises in Dowagiac, and the Meachum family who operate High Acres Fruit Farm on 2,500 acres in and around Hartford. The Hassles and Meachums broadened their farming expertise – which stretches from row crops and vegetables to peaches, cherries and apples – into the packing business in 2006, by purchasing Shafer Lake.
When the previous owners retired, the multi-generational Hassle and Meachum families wanted to secure their local fruit packing option. “Acquiring the packing facility gave us a guaranteed home for our produce, and the opportunity to implement more cutting-edge packing technology to improve our success in the marketplace,” Jason Meachum says. “My father, brothers and I, as well as the Hassles, have visited packing facilities across the U.S. looking at best practices.” A very important innovation for Shafer Lake in the last few years has been a complete re-invention of the way the facility polishes apples. “It’s tricky controlling for the humid conditions prevalent in Michigan, but we are now confident that our fruit looks every bit as attractive as apples grown anywhere in the world,” Meachum says. “We like to think of ourselves as curious innovators not only in our orchards, but also in the way we engineer our finishing processes to satisfy the consumer,” Meachum says.