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Contributed Photo from The Apple Truck / The Apple Truck sells 20-pound, half-bushel boxes of Michigan-grown apples. Half of the varieties are sweet, and half are tart. Half-gallons of Honeycrisp apple cider also are available.

How do Michigan apples compare to apples grown elsewhere?

Find out Friday when The Apple Truck delivers a truckload of fresh produce to customers in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. The truck is slated for stops from early morning to late afternoon in East Brainerd, Hixson and Fort Oglethorpe.

CEO Dale Apley — yes, that's his real name — says he's aware there are apple orchards throughout the tri-state, but he's targeting the Michigan harvest to consumers who normally buy their apples at grocery stores.

He says it's not unusual to see customers take a first bite within minutes of claiming their orders.

"Many people will start eating their apples from The Apple Truck before they leave the parking lot," Apley says. "We call it instant gratification."

Trucks have been rolling out since September to stops in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina and Indiana. Since this is the inaugural tour, we wanted to know more about Apley's apples. Here's what we learned.

"A" is for Apley (and Ann Arbor). The city in Lower Michigan, about 35 miles west of Detroit, is home base for The Apple Truck. Apley is joined in the family business by his wife, MariAnn, and their three children, who all play "pivotal roles" in the company, he says.

"With a name like Apley and [being] sixth-generation Michiganders, it only makes sense that our family gravitated to the apple business," he says.

Michigan is the nation's third largest producer of apples, behind Washington and New York. The Apleys work in partnership with several multigenerational, family-owned orchards for the products they carry.

"A" is for Advantage. The company website notes a "Michigan difference" in apples grown in the Great Lakes State. Apley credits the seasonal temperatures, abundant freshwater and nutrient-rich soil for producing juicy, crunchy, sweet, crisp apples.

"Because of the Great Lakes, Michigan apples are unique because we benefit from an abundance of freshwater — Michigan apples rarely need irrigation and are more sustainable for that reason," he says. "Our unique climate combined with the Great Lakes creates growing conditions that make our apples uniquely flavored and extra juicy."

"A" is for Access. Apley says friends and family members who've moved away from Michigan miss "the crisp bite and crunch" common to fresh Michigan apples. The apples they find in supermarkets can't compare, he says.

"Most of the apples available in stores have been sitting in boxes for several months in cold-storage facilities or are imported," Apley explains. "Unlike grocery store options, we can get our apples into our customers' hands within hours of being picked."

Friday's stops

8-9:30 a.m. Hamilton Place mall, 2100 Hamilton Place Blvd., Chattanooga

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Vinterest Antiques, 2105 Northpoint Blvd., Hixson

3:30-5 p.m. Tractor Supply, 1785 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

Order in advance: TheApple-Truck.com

"A" is for Assortment. The Apple Truck sells 20-pound, half-bushel boxes of apples. Half of the varieties are sweet; half are tart. Cost is $45 per box. Half-gallons of Honeycrisp apple cider also are available for $7 each.

"A" is for Appointment. You'll need to order online for a time and place to pick up your apples. The first stop in the area starts at 8 a.m. at Hamilton Place mall in Chattanooga. Then the truck will head to Hixson for deliveries at Vinterest Antiques at 11 a.m. The final stop is at 3:30 p.m. at Tractor Supply in Fort Oglethorpe. Each stop lasts about 90 minutes.

The website, theapple-truck.com, specifies that orders should have been placed by midnight Sunday, but publicist Rachel Davis, of Reed Public Relations in Nashville, says there may be some wiggle room as long as supply exceeds demand before the truck leaves Ann Arbor.

"People can order online as long as the form is up," she says.

Word to the wise: Order forms for last weekend's deliveries to the Nashville area were still up the day before, indicating the truck was sufficiently stocked for last-minute purchases.

"A" is for Alliance. The Apple Truck's schedule is similar to previous stops made by The Peach Truck, a Nashville-based business that delivers fresh Georgia peaches to 20-plus states during the summer and has visited Chattanooga the past several years.

Apley says he and his family are "fans of farm-fresh fruit" and like to align with other providers.

"We are customers of The Peach Truck in Michigan and love to share our support where we can," he says. "We have also purchased from the Georgia Peach Truck in Florida and The Peach Brothers in Connecticut. It's great that there are so many fresh, healthy fruit options available."

"A" is for Ambition. This is the first time through for The Apple Truck, but Apley says it won't be the last.

"Before launching The Apple Truck, we conducted a comprehensive research study to identify metro areas and towns where customers are interested in purchasing the best fresh produce possible," he says. "Additionally, we looked for places that were dissatisfied with local options. Since this is our first year, we are trying to cover as many stops/towns as possible. We plan to expand our stops in Tennessee for our 2022 tour."

"A" is for Affinity. Apley says he thinks area residents will be won over by fresh apples from Michigan, compared to the shipped and stored versions they may have tried before.

"People who live in the South and have ever tasted fresh Michigan apples know the difference when they can try an apple that was picked days ago versus weeks or months," he says. "The apple tour aims to bring this simple pleasure to as many Southerners as possible."

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.

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Contributed Photo from The Apple Truck / Place an order at TheApple-Truck.com to assure delivery. Walk-up purchases may be possible but are not guaranteed.
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