One bite of a Michigan Hon­ey­crisp. That’s all Damon Glei thinks it will take.

Every week, trucks drive 10 minutes from Glei’s Orchards and Green­houses to deliver more than 1,200 apples to Bon Appetit, Hillsdale College’s food service.

Beginning with 50 trees and 40 acres, the Glei family has grown apples for nearly a century.

“The cold nights, high ele­vation in Hillsdale, and the pro­tection of the Great Lakes gives us the best apples in the world coming out of the Midwest and namely Michigan,” Glei said. “But I guess I’m a little biased.”

The Glei family legacy began in 1918 when Alma and her son Carl pur­chased 40 acres on Milnes Road.

“My father and his mother moved on this farm in 1918. Most farms at the time had apple trees. They had a little bit of every­thing, cattle, hogs, and chickens,” said Owen Glei, Damon’s father and business partner.

Now, the Glei’s grow 24 dif­ferent apple vari­eties along with veg­etables, flowers, nursery stock, and Christmas trees on the 300 acres between the two farms.

Both father and son agree that growing a quality apple is as much an art as it is a science.

“It’s a little stick when we plant it — five feet tall, big as your thumb in width,” Glei said. “The art is taking that tree and putting it into a design to make it capture as much sun­light as pos­sible and also keeping the longevity of the tree for 20 – 25 years.”

Every year for a field trip, Laurie Rosenberg, Hillsdale College pro­fessor of hor­ti­culture, takes her stu­dents to Glei’s to learn from these apple sages.

“They have been in the business a long time and know what works after all these years through trial and error,” Rosenberg said. “The stu­dents can gain from their expe­rience.”

The high per­centage of natural organic matter in the soil is a reason some of the best apples come from Michigan.

“Our soil has 4 – 5 percent natural organic matter com­pared to 1 percent in Wash­ington. Most of their nutrients are arti­fi­cially given to them. What we do with sprays does nothing to affect flavor,” Glei said.

Rosenberg agrees that Michigan fruit tastes better in part because of the soil quality.

“Every­thing has an energy price. If the plant is growing under very good con­di­tions, they may create chem­icals for great flavor,” Rosenberg said.

Owen and Damon are opti­mistic about the future of the apple industry. For the past two years, apple prices have risen largely because of new apple vari­eties. As Owen loves Gala and Damon loves Hon­ey­crisp, at Glei’s, “if you haven’t found an apple that you’ve liked, you haven’t tried the right one.”