The Agri-Tourist’s Guide to Taking a Michigan Farm Tour

Spring is here, which means Michigan’s growing season is just around corner. Today, the Michigan Agritourism Association shares their insider tips for having some fun on a Michigan farm this summer. 

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As warmth fills the air and the sun stays up longer each day, spring is a welcome relief from a winter of bone-chilling temperatures. Michigan farms are waking up. Greenhouses are planted, seedlings are sprouting, newly born baby animals cry out, and orchards will soon be blooming.  Farm crews are opening up the barns, dusting “winter” off the play areas, and preparing to open the wonder of a farm to visitors.

Asparagus3Fresh, delicious, local produce will soon be available at road-side stands and farm markets, along with an opportunity to interact with those who grow your food. Asparagus is the first harbinger of spring  that normally pops out of the ground in early May. It can be prepared in so many different ways and is a treat to the taste buds after a long winter.

Insider tip:  Since it is only available fresh for about 6 weeks, try to get it as frequently as you can before it is gone for the season! 

This year’s Asparagus festival is May 15-17 and includes a Kick Ass-paragus 5K Fun Run/Walk, the infamous asparagus poem contest, a parade full of homemade asparagus hats and more.

In June, strawberries make their debut!  Many Michigan farms offer picked or u-pick strawberries, which is a fun experience for families. Ask the farm folks to show you the different growth stages of a strawberry:   from their start as small white blossoms to plump red ones which quickly fill up a quart box.

SB6_11_14Insider tip:  Wear a red shirt for when the strawberry juice drips down your chin!

In late June and into July, the growing season kicks into high gear with cherries, raspberries and blueberries.  If you loved picking strawberries, look for farms that offer U-Pick on these fruits, too.

Insider tip: If you’re not already a jammer, try hand-making jams and jellies and freeze them to savor the flavors year round!

The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City is one of the oldest and largest festivals in the country. The eight-day celebration, held July 4-11th this year, is jam-packed with activities for all ages. Though not as large, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries take main stage at various festivals around the state.

tomatoesThrough mid-July well into August, indulge in fabulous Michigan sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, sweet onions, peaches, plums, and almost any vegetable you desire.

Insider tip:  Visit the farm market first to get what is locally fresh in season, then plan the rest of your meal planning and shopping from there. Grilled vegetables?  Absolutely delicious!

For longer outings, look for farms which offer farm-style play areas, animal petting, and educational sessions and tours. Enjoy the onsite bakeries and food venues for fruit slushies, ice cream, fruit pies and of course – donuts!   We have no scientific proof, but farm bakery donuts just taste better when eaten while enjoying fresh air and the views of a farm!  A down-to-earth farm outing will simulate all five senses, teach you how food is grown, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun.

donutsInsider tip: Look for picnic areas, inviting benches and chairs to pull up and soak it all in. 

Plan your next experience by searching for local farms at www.michiganfarmfun.com or with a printed directory available at Michigan Agritourism Member locations, Michigan Farm Bureau offices, Michigan Welcome Centers or by calling the Michigan Agritourism Association office at (866) 964-3628.

Have you been to a Michigan farm? Tell us about your visit!

Allissa McManus and Beth Hubbard are passionate Board members of the Michigan Agritourism Association, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote agritourism by supporting our membership of farmers, farm marketers, and agritourism operators, who work tirelessly to provide fresh, delicious produce, education and farm fun to residents and visitors of our great State of Michigan. For more information about us and our members, please visit www.michiganfarmfun.com.

Eight Reasons to Love Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti – generally referred to as “Ypsi” by the locals – is a progressive city just four miles east of Ann Arbor. The city is rich in history and thrives with a creative community. Surely, there are more than 8 reasons to love Ypsilanti, but this list from Visit Ypsi will get you started!

1. The Events

Events are a large part of Ypsilanti’s culture and keep visitors coming back for more – from weekly cruise nights and farmers markets, to art shows and air shows. Ypsilanti is home to major annual events such as, Michigan ElvisFest, Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival, The Color Run Michigan Eastside, and the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show. These events attract thousands of visitors and are just a few of the events that help make Ypsi unique and thriving. Click here for a list of the city’s major events.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

2. The Food

Adventurous diners and comfort-food connoisseurs will have their cravings satisfied in Ypsilanti. Fresh salads, cultural fusions, classic barbecue, and ample amounts of mac and cheese can be found on menus in the charming city. The city has a passion for mastering the burger, crafting local beers, and creating artisanal coffee beverages. But the best part is that every dining hotspot is 100% authentic, local, and served with a smile.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

3. The Parks

Ypsi parks offer the perfect setting for afternoon strolls, concerts, ballgames, and more. Riverside Park hosts the majority of the city’s outdoor events and runs along the historic Huron River. Just across the “tridge” is Frog Island where you can find a gorgeous/unique amphitheater and a spacious soccer field. Ypsi has endless parks tucked away as you wander through the city and contributes to the 400 square miles of parks in Southeast Michigan (also known as The Big 400).

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

4. The People

Many people who choose to live in Ypsi are attracted to its sense of community, but the hometown-feel is not exclusive to locals. “Ypsilantians” care about their city and are passionate about sharing it with others. The affordable housing has drawn in a creative community – which is why you will find art galleries inside third-wave coffee houses, or a rustic beer pub inside a renovated historic warehouse. Visiting Ypsi is as good as making time for your creative side. The spirit of the community, made by the people, will align your mind with inspiration.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

5. The University

Eastern Michigan University’s campus is a beautiful gem in Ypsi. Historic and modern architecture create a unique juxtaposition for students and visitors. An active student body hosts many research symposiums, athletic events, and art happenings. You can find affordable and unique dining experiences close to campus (and for an insider tip: campus is a great place for a breezy walk or bike ride). Go Eagles!

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

6. The Shopping

Bring an extra suitcase when you Visit Ypsilanti! You are sure to be packed with antiques, novelties, and artisan gifts by the time you make your way home. The rare antique shopping is a regional attraction and quirky storefronts are full of must-have knick-knacks.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

7. The History

Many people want to know about the origin of the tongue-twisting name, Ypsilanti, but that’s only one of many fascinating stories that can be told about the individualistic city. (It’s pronounced ip-suh-lan-tee, by the way, and you can learn more about the name by clicking here).

Early settlements of Native American tribes along the Huron River is where the story begins. In later years, Ypsilanti played a major role in WWII at the Willow Run Bomber Plant (home to many real life Rosie-the-Riveters), and also laid claim to the last Hudson Dealership.

Ypsi has four local museums dedicated to preserving and sharing stories throughout the centuries. However, simply walking through the streets will take you back in time – historic architecture lines the city’s sidewalks, and heritage events take place throughout the year.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

8. The Neighbors

Ypsilanti is surrounded by seven outstanding communities – each with their own unique events, shopping, dining, and outdoor activities. Nationally acclaimed theatres, fun-in-the-sun waterparks, and art and music festivals should be added to your Ypsi itinerary. All of these adventures and more can be easily accessed by major highways (with a complimentary scenic drive) just minutes away from Downtown Ypsi!

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Honorable Mention: The Water Tower

A blog like this wouldn’t be complete without mention of Ypsilanti’s historic water tower. Built in 1890, Ypsi’s water tower stands 147 feet tall in the middle of the city.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi

There is so much more to discover in Ypsilanti. Click here to start your journey, or follow this blog for regular updates about the unique Pure Michigan city!

What do you love about Ypsilanti? 

This Rare 3D View of the Top of Mackinac Bridge Using Google Maps Street View is Mind-Blowing!

Have you ever imagined what it’s like to stand atop one of Michigan’s most recognizable structures, the Mackinac Bridge? Now, using Google Maps Street View, you can. And you can do it from the comfort of your own living room!

Google Trekker at the top of Mackinac Bridge

We’ve partnered with Google to make many of Michigan’s most iconic destinations accessible to the more than one billion people all around the world who use Google Maps each month.  Using Google Trekker technology, attractions such as the Mackinac Bridge – not previously accessible on Google Street View – now have 360 degree, fully navigable imagery that will allow potential travelers to explore these destinations.

We’re giving our readers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how we captured this truly remarkable footage. Get ready – you’re in for the climb of your life!

What did you think? As you search for the words to describe this breathtaking virtual experience, here’s a behind-the-scenes look into how it all came together.

The Street View Trekker is a backpack system with a camera on top that is worn by an operator who walks through pedestrian walkways or trails on foot. The imagery is captured automatically and stitched together to create the 360 degree panorama seen on Google Maps. More than 44,000 panoramic photos were taken by members and volunteers on the Pure Michigan team and the Department of Natural Resources who borrowed the Trekker and traveled for four weeks, capturing some of the most breathtaking scenes around Michigan.

Google Trekker at Mackinac Island looking at Mackinac Bridge

There are 15 lenses at the top of the mast, each pointed in a different direction that enabled us to create a 360-degree panoramic view. As the operator walks, photos are taken every 2.5 seconds. The Trekker weighs approximately 40 lbs, and is the size of a large hiking backpack. It’s about 4 feet in height when set on the ground, and when worn, the camera system extends 2 feet above the operator’s shoulders.  The Trekker battery can last around 6-8 hours on a full charge.

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So, we strapped on the Trekker and made our way to one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. According to Robert Sweeney, executive director of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, the trek to the top of the bridge can be characterized by feelings of anticipation and exhilaration. The climb starts by navigating a series of small openings, similar to what you would expect on a submarine.

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There are 2,500 cells in each tower that range in size from 6 cubic feet to 60 cubic feet. Needless to say, we ran into a bit of trouble getting the Trekker to the top…

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…But we made it. And the view was 100 percent worth it!

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Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps Street View.

Top of the Mackinac Bridge on Google Maps Street View

Top of the Mackinac Briddge

Are you adventurous enough to make the climb? Each year, the Mackinac Bridge Authority donates 25 certificates to charitable organizations. Each certificate enables two people to take a tour of the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

The public can bid on the certificates or buy raffle tickets (depending on how each organization chooses to handle their fundraising campaign). For more information and a list of participating organizations, send an e-mail to powellm1@michigan.gov or call 906 -643-1336.

Other Michigan destinations available on Google Street View are:  Mackinac Island, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Island Loop Route National Water Trail in St. Clair County, the State Capitol building in Lansing, Ford Field, the Detroit Riverwalk, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Wagner Falls, Bond Falls, Silver Lake State Park and Sand Dunes, Palms Brook State Park, Brighton State Recreation Area, Pinckney State Recreation Area, Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, Ocqueoc Falls in Millersburg, Agate Falls in Trout Creek and the Presque Isle River.

These sites join other natural wonders, including the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, the Galapagos Islands and many more available in the Street View feature of Google Maps.

For more information and to view other Michigan destinations on Google Maps Street view, visit michigan.org/GoogleTrekker.