agriculture

Economy
11:54 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Weather & fuel costs on the minds of Michigan farmers

Instead of snow, Michigan farmers would rather see something like this in thier fields
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s planting time for many Michigan farmers.  In addition to the weather, farmers are closely watching fuel prices this Spring.   

The price of fuel affects practically every aspect of farming in Michigan, from the cost of the diesel in the tractor to the price of the fertilizer on the fields.  Bob Boehm is the director of the commodities department for the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says fuel costs are between 7% to 15% of the average Michigan farm’s budget, but may be higher this year.  

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What's Working
6:15 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Michigan wine: Success in a bottle

Vineyard in Leelanau County
user farlane flickr

As we continue our “What’s Working” series this week, Christina Shockley sits down to speak with Linda Jones, the Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Over the past decade, the wine industry in Michigan has grown ten to fifteen percent each year, with most of the wine being produced in the southwest and northwest regions of the Lower Peninsula.

With 14,600 acres of vineyards, Michigan ranks fourth amongst all states in grape production. Most of these grapes are used to make juices, but about 2,000 acres of vineyards are devoted solely to wine grape production, making Michigan the eighth largest producer of wine grapes. Ms. Jones says that when we talk about Michigan’s wine industry, we are really talking about the grape industry as well.

“They’re an integrated function. Many of the wineries in Michigan grow their own fruit. And our program is housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture because wine is really an exemplary industry for value-added agriculture, meaning you take a crop that is grown here in Michigan and you add value to it on the farm property and attract customers to come and visit you, and that translates into a huge economic boom for that area when you can do that.”   

In a state that has seen its industries and population decline in the past decade, Michigan’s wine industry has continued to grow steadily. Jones says this is because wine production incorporates two of Michigan’s strongest assets.

“It combines our second and third largest industries: agriculture and tourism. Michigan is a long-standing fruit-producing state, especially on the west side of the state, but increasingly throughout Michigan we are planting wine grapes with new varieties that are being developed.”

But Michigan isn’t just good at growing fruit because we’ve been doing it for centuries. The climate in Michigan is particularly well-suited for growing grapes, says Jones.

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Economy
4:45 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Snyder says agriculture key to small business growth

Governor Snyder says it's important to process the commodities made in Michigan.
Helen Hanley creative commons

Governor Rick Snyder says agriculture is a key part of his strategy to focus economic development efforts on small businesses.

The governor spoke today to the Future Farmers of America state convention. He says there’s lots of room to grow small businesses processing farm products in rural areas of the state.

"There’s an opportunity there to do more economic development in our smaller towns and our villages, and one of those connections is if you look at it, we’re producing all these great commodity products, and if we can do more and more to say let’s continue the processing of these products right where they are being produced, that’s an opportunity to create jobs in these smaller communities. "

At the same time, Snyder says he wants to rely less on tax breaks and other industry-specific incentives to create jobs.

Environment
11:30 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Urban farming in Detroit gets mixed reviews

John Hantz wants to transform Detroit's vacant land into urban farm
Photo courtesy of Hantz Farms

John Hantz wants to turn a blighted swath of Detroit into what he calls "the world’s largest urban farm." But the project, which has been in the works for nearly two years, has been slow to get off the ground. 

City officials just approved a deal to let Hantz Farms buy 20 city lots (about five acres) adjacent to their headquarters. The company plans to clean up the land and create some small orchards.

Roadblocks to city farming

  • Hantz Farms is not allowed to sell anything they grow there.
  • Large-scale farming requires re-zoning for agriculture, which brings the Michigan Right to Farm Act into play; that law is meant to protect farmers from people who complain about the sounds and smells of regular farming. Some people worry it would give Hantz Farms’ neighbors little recourse if there are problems.
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Agriculture
12:12 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Michigan Farmers to learn about labor laws

Migrant farmworkers live and work on Michgan farms during the harvest
Craig Camp flickr

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Michigan Farm Bureau is starting a six month series to educate farmers about laws that apply to migrant workers and youth labor. Michigan’s agriculture industry is dependent on migrant labor. The industry is still dealing with the effect of a harsh report on worker conditions by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Hannah Stevens is with Michigan State University Extension, one of the sponsors of the series.

In agriculture it’s complicated because there immigration issues there’s housing issue, you know, so many regulatory agencies that look closely at management of labor.  I think particularly it’s a sensitive topic.

Stevens says that pressure to comply with labor laws is also coming from retailers.

The retail stores, Meijer’s and Walmart’s and all these, are beginning to demand that there’s certain responsibility that growers have in terms of managing their workforce. They may reject Michigan produce if they don’t feel that’s being handled correctly. That may put growers in a very awkward position.

The farm bureau expects only about 25% of growers in the state will attend their seminars. The seminars will run from February to July.

Environment
4:24 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Invasive brown marmorated stink bugs found in Michigan

The Brown marmorated stink bug. Spook it and it might put its stink on you, but the real worry is what it could do to crops in the state.
David Lance USDA APHIS

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) in two Michigan counties. The bugs were discovered by students from Michigan State University.

Jennifer Holton is with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. She says the bugs can do damage to the types of fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan. The damage makes them difficult to sell. 

And what is does is... a little bit of character distortion on the fruit, what they refer to as cat facing, and that makes the fruit, or the vegetable, if there may be one, unmarketable for the fresh market.

You can find more information about identifying BMSB at the Michigan Department of Agriculture website.

Holton also suggested never moving firewood and to contact your local Michigan State University extension office if you think you found a brown marmorated stink bug.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Governor Snyder
7:53 am
Wed January 12, 2011

State Department of Agriculture gets a name change

Michigan farm
Prima Civitas Foundation Flickr

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is, now, officially the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Governor Rick Snyder announced in November that he would make the change.  He signed an order, yesterday, making it official.

The Associated Press reports, "the governor says the new name is 'a clear signal' his administration plans to help the agriculture industry grow so rural areas gain new and better jobs."

Governor Snyder appointed Keith Creagh to head the Department. Creagh used to be the Department's deputy director.

In a statement released yesterday, Creagh said:

Agriculture today is a high tech industry that relies on trained professionals with knowledge of the newest methods from biology and chemistry to packing and shipping. Expanding educational opportunities will give Michigan's agricultural producers a competitive edge and ensure jobs are available for recent graduates who want to stay in their home communities.

Economy
8:52 am
Tue January 4, 2011

Food for Thought - Food Safety vs Michigan Farmers

Farm fresh vegetables at Witherbees Market in Flint, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

President Obama is expected today to sign legislation to improve the nation’s food safety.  The new law will put more regulations on Michigan farmers. 


2010 ended with national recalls of parsley, alfalfa sprouts and cilantro because of possible salmonella contamination.  The recalls were just the latest problems that prompted Congress to revamp the nation’s food safety system. The changes include better tracking of all kinds of food, from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s plate.  

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Farming
2:49 pm
Fri December 10, 2010

Dozens of counties in Michigan tagged as "Natural Disaster Areas"

A farm in Michigan
Maureen Reilly - flickr user

Update 2:38 p.m.:

There are more declarations of natural disaster areas in the state of Michigan. The 21 counties I wrote about below were for "excessive heat" disasters. The USDA has also issued natural disaster declarations for frost (the excessive cold occurred from March 1st through May 16th), AND for storms and rain.

The 32 counties that received the frost declarations can be found this FEMA page.

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Environment
1:33 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

What lies under the farm fields? (audio slideshow)

Lynn Davis' family has run a farm drainage business in northwest Ohio for 100 years.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A few years back, we at the Environment Report did a comprehensive series called, "The Ten Threats to the Great Lakes." Doing our best to make it comprehensive, we broke each of the Ten Threats into several stories.

We joked that the "Ten Threats" series turned into a 33-part series as we dug deeper into the issues.

For the series, I traveled to northwest Ohio and met with Lynn Davis. His grandfather had started a farm drainage business in 1910 using a steam powered trenching machine. Davis later took over the business from his father and uncle.

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Governor-elect Snyder
11:47 pm
Tue November 30, 2010

Snyder tells farmers they're one of the keys to Michigan's future

Governor-elect Rick Snyder at the Michigan Farm Bureau in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder spoke to members of Michigan’s Farm Bureau Tuesday evening.

Snyder told the crowd he’s preparing to start Michigan’s era of innovation next month. “You’re on the forefront of that. People don’t understand how innovative you are and all the efforts you do. Whether it’s increasing yields or being more environmentally sound or all the great practices. ”

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Memories
2:33 pm
Wed September 1, 2010

Michigan State Fair is gone but not forgotten

An actress at the Michigan State Fair solicits people to come see a children's play (2006)
Bob Vigiletti Michigan Radio Picture Project

There's a new post on Michigan Radio's Picture Project site.  Bob Vigiletti has eighteen beautiful shots taken in the waning years of the Michigan State Fair.  The fair, proclaimed to be the country's oldest, was closed because of declining attendance and revenues in 2009. Vigiletti writes:

It is only through out thoughts and photographs that we preserve and cherish memories of the past.

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Food
11:50 am
Mon August 30, 2010

Underground diner supports local farmers

Breakfast volunteers: Lisa Gottlieb, Shana Kimball, Bridgette Carr, Jeff McCabe, and Maria Bonn.
Myra Klarman

(by Rebecca Williams with The Environment Report)

So what would you think about opening up your home to 120 people every week? Letting them come in with their shoes on, sit anywhere they wanted. Oh, and by the way, they’ll be expecting a full breakfast.

That’s what happens at Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb’s house in Ann Arbor. From 6:30 to 10am every Friday, their house is transformed. It’s kind of weird. You walk in and you know you’re in someone’s home, but it feels like you’re suddenly in a little diner.

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