By Lorri Schrieber
Ever wonder where the phrase “an apple for the teacher” comes from? It appears that this traditional teacher gift may have started during historical school times when teachers often lived with families of their students. Bushels of apples were given as a token of appreciation. They were also a way to keep teachers fed and make up for poor wages. This tradition dates back centuries throughout several continents. Another theory, however, is from the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their “tree of knowledge,” making the apple a great symbol for teachers.
It’s easy to give teachers apples in Michigan at the start of school! Apples are in abundance here and typically in harvest when the school year starts, so it’s a great option to carry on the longtime tradition. According to the Michigan Apple Committee, Michigan is the nation’s third largest producer of apples with more than 14.9 million apple trees covering 34,500 acres on 775 family-run farms. There are more than 50 varieties growing in the state with Gala being the top variety.
Here are some fun facts from the Michigan Apple Committee:
- Archaeologists have found evidence that people have been eating apples since at least 6500 B.C.
- Apples were brought to North America by colonists in the 17th century. In 1625, Reverend William Blaxton planted the first apple orchard on the North American continent in New England.
- Apple varieties brought as seeds from Europe were spread along Native American trade routes, as well as being cultivated on Colonial farms. By the mid-1600s there were about 60 varieties of apples.
- John Chapman, (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed) really did exist and is one of the reasons why we have so many apples today. Chapman owned many tree nurseries in the Midwest and sold and traded apple trees.