(Nov. 25) The makeup of the Michigan apple industry is changing.

On Nov. 21, Roger Kropf, president of Kropf Fruit Co., Belding, Mich., said the company would cease operations by the first of the year. The Kropf brand, however, will continue being marketed and sold through a new company, Appletree Marketing LLC, based in Ada, Mich.

The past year and a half have been rocky at Kropf Fruit.

Ken Kropf, Roger Kropf’s brother and co-owner of Kropf Orchards and Storage (the company’s growing operations), died in the summer of 2001. Since then, Kropf Orchards and Storage filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, downsized its production programs and reduced apple acreage by 50%.

Kropf said in mid-August that the company reduced payroll by $1.5 million and sold some machinery. He also said the company wanted to expand the marketing side of the business.

APPLETREE MARKETING

In October at the Produce Marketing Association’s Convention and Exposition in New Orleans, the Kropf booth displayed an Appletree Marketing LLC sign, and business cards were printed with the new company name.

Bruce Summers, assistant chief for the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act branch in Washington, D.C., said Appletree Marketing LLC received a PACA license in September. The sole principal listed on the license is Steve Kropf, son of Roger Kropf.

“Kropf Fruit Co. is going to become nonfunctional,” Kropf said. “Appletree Farms is the vehicle by which Steve Kropf will continue with the Kropf brand. This is the way that I have decided to create the transition from my generation to his generation.”

APPLETREE FARMS

Kropf said Appletree Farms, which will lease part and own part of the orchards , will replace Kropf Orchards and Storage, which emerged from bankruptcy in August, and Appletree Marketing will replace Kropf Fruit Co.

“My intent is to continue working with Steve with my years of knowledge and support to help move the new company forward,” Kropf said.

Kropf said Appletree Marketing was looking at expanding the marketing areas, handling other commodities in addition to apples, looking at imports and looking at specialty items.

Steve Kropf, who was formerly the director of marketing for Kropf Fruit Co. and now is president of Appletree Marketing, was unavailable for comment. How the transition from Kropf Fruit to Appletree Marketing will affect the Michigan apple industry is still under debate.