As the owner of Hy’s Cider Mill in Romeo, Jim Goldstein literally enjoys the fruit of his labor.
Never tiring of the crunchy texture and sweet to tart taste, Jim Goldstein eats two to three apples a day. His favorites change depending on the time of year but include Golden Russets, Paula Reds and Ambrosias. As the owner of Hy’s Cider Mill in Romeo, he literally enjoys the fruit of his labor.
Goldstein is a third-generation farmer, an occupation not particularly common in the Jewish community. Although he’s helped his father and grandfather for as long as he can remember, farming became his profession in 1976, immediately after his high school graduation.
Hy’s Cider Mill is located on an 80-plus acre apple orchard in the northernmost part of Macomb County, an area inhabited by several other cider mills and U-pick farms, including Westview Orchards, Blake’s Cider Mill and others.
Goldstein’s orchard and cider mill is nearly an hour from the West Bloomfield/ Farmington Hills area, and approximately 45 minutes from Southfield. Still, his cider is widely known because it’s sold in several high-end grocery stores, including Plum Market, Westborn Market and Nino Salvaggio.
Cider Mill Tour
When I pull up to meet Goldstein, 63, he is waiting on the expansive porch of his old-fashioned cider mill. The retail part of the building is an all-wood exterior structure built with the lumber of a previously existing barn on the property. It looks like it would fit perfectly on the set of an old television Western. Perched above the door is the sign, “Hy’s Cider Mill Etc” It’s faded but still readable after several decades of use.
Hy’s is off a dirt road in a sparsely populated area. One year ago, Joey Roberts of West Bloomfield was helping a rabbinical student scour Macomb County for Jewish residents. They found Goldstein and put him in touch with Rabbi Menachem Caytak, who, along with his wife, Chana, run the Chabad Jewish Center of Troy.
Now the Goldsteins come to some of the Caytaks’ holiday events and Shabbat dinners. On Aug. 29, the Chabad Jewish Center of Troy hosted a Jewish family festival at the farm, with tractor rides, live music, various activities and, of course, apple picking.
Goldstein lives at the orchard with his wife, Michelle, a fifth-grade teacher, and their two teenagers Hyley, 16, and Manny, 15. Their home is probably 1,000 feet from where customers park during their brief but busy season, beginning in early September and ending on Nov. 1.
Shortly after I arrive, Goldstein is eager to show off his property. He grows approximately 20 varieties of apples, everything from the popular Honeycrisp apples to McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Empire, Fuji, Jonathan and more.
“This is how I get to work,” said Goldstein, hopping in his candy red Honda Pioneer ATV before we tour the property. As we zip around the orchard, it becomes apparent that Goldstein is an endless source of knowledge regarding apples and growing them. He explains how apples are more abundant at the tops of trees than at the bottom after a spring frost. He points out how rubber bands can pull down limbs, forcing the trees to bear more fruit, and spews out countless other examples of modern growing techniques during the tour. “You can’t just let the trees grow,” he says. “You have to train them.”
A Family Legacy
At one point, we stop, and Goldstein shows off an area of the orchard that’s particularly special to him. “I planted those 45 years ago. Want to know how I know that?” he asks. “That’s when I graduated high school.”
Goldstein attended Almont High School, where he and his siblings were the only Jewish students. Although he was offered a full scholarship to study agriculture, he declined and began working full time on the family orchard. At the time, his father’s health was declining. Goldstein started to take over operations of the farm purchased by his grandfather approximately 100 years ago.
His grandparents, Joe and Ettie Goldstein, emigrated from Poland in the early 1900s. They initially settled on Hastings Street in Detroit, where Joe worked as a peddler. However, the couple later purchased the farm and moved out to the country with their two sons, Gustave and Hyman. Goldstein’s father, Hyman, opened Hy’s Cider Mill in the fall of 1973.
Before the cider mill opened, the farm was 160 sprawling acres. Joe split the land in half, with one section designated for crops and livestock. The other half became the apple orchard. Gustave subsequently took over the crops and livestock, and Hyman got the orchard.
While Gustave gave up farming, Hyman kept his orchard going, selling his crops at Eastern Market in Detroit and opening the cider mill. Their first cider press made 200 gallons of cider an hour. Today, the press produces 1,200 gallons in one hour. Goldstein says it takes approximately 14 pounds of apples to make just one gallon of cider.
Hy’s is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday during the fall. Unlike many other cider mills and U-pick farms, there aren’t other activities on-site; there’s no petting farm, playground or corn maze. But patrons don’t seem to care because they love the cider, donuts and caramel apples.
Goldstein’s 16-year-old daughter is often found helping with the donut operations. Their donut machine spits out 180 dozen donuts — cinnamon or plain — in just one hour.
In addition to his children who pitch in when needed, Goldstein employs two full-time workers. In the fall, his staff swells to somewhere between 30 and 40, with a dozen picking apples.
This year, Goldstein expects to harvest between 30% and 40% of his usual crop due to a late spring frost. “At least it’s not like it was in 2012,” he says, referring to the year when many area farmers lost their entire crop.
“The weather makes you or breaks you,” he says. “Mother nature will always be the boss. When you lose so much of your crop, you have to make due. There’s no other choice.
“I love doing this. It’s rewarding to grow something because you see it from start to finish. It’s hard work, but it’s so gratifying to see what comes out of that work.”