Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known About Michigan Agriculture

Today is National Agriculture Day! Guest blogger Barbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, shares 20 little known facts about freshly grown Michigan food and agriculture. 

Barbara and her family on their beet field

Barbara and her family on their sugar beet field

I’ve always been in love with Michigan. I believe it is unparalleled in its diversity of seasons, activities, and food! We are a very active family; we enjoy many things Michigan has to offer including camping, water sports, snowmobiling, and of course, food and farming! On our farm, we produce dairy, beef, corn, wheat, and sugar beets, but I’m always interested in learning more about other commodities.

Did you know Michigan farmers produce 300 different types of food and agricultural products? Michigan is also home to many national brands that you know, love, and trust. Recently, Governor Snyder proclaimed March “Food and Agriculture Month” due to Ag’s positive impact on Michigan’s economy. Check out this list which highlight some of Michigan’s lesser known areas of agriculture.

1. Sugar: Michigan Sugar Company is the only sugar processor in the state. It processes sugar for Pioneer, Big Chief, and more than 20 other private labels. Sugar is important in the production of soda pop, such as Vernor’s and Faygo, which are proud Michigan brands. Our farm grows sugar beets, which are harvested in autumn.

2. Cherries: Michigan ranks 1st in the nation for tart cherry production, and 4th for sweet cherries. Check out this website for more info on Michigan cherry wines. I like to drink a little tart cherry juice right before bedtime.

3. Milk: Michigan ranks 1st in the nation for the production of low fat ice cream mix, but Michigan dairy farmers also contribute to other products such as Hudsonville ice cream, Kraft cheese, Yoplait yogurt, Michigan Made cottage cheese, and Country Fresh sour cream.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.56.34 AM4. Beans: Michigan is 1st in the nation for production of dry black beans, cranberry beans, and small red beans and 2nd for production of all dry beans. Bush’s Beans, based in Tennessee, buys beans from Michigan!

5. Potatoes: Michigan is the nation’s leading producer of potatoes in potato chip processing. Better Made Chips, which just turned 85, are a favorite Michigan brand. We like taking a bag of chips with us on the boat, or in the camper in the summer.

6. Grapes: Michigan has over 100 commercial wineries, and ranks 1st in the nation for production of Niagara grapes and 8th for wine grape production.

7. Nursery: Nursery and perennial plants are the 2nd largest agricultural commodity group in Michigan.

8. Eggs: Michigan egg farmers supply all the eggs to McDonald’s restaurants east of the Mississippi River. Check out this video from McDonald’s. My kids take care of a small flock of laying hens, and they produce enough for us, and a few neighbors, family members, and friends.

9. Blueberries: Michigan is number 1 for production of blueberries for the entire nation and only 600 Michigan family farms do it all! That’s amazing! I like to use blueberries in this breakfast bake. Yum!

5019864379_a35c8468f5_b10. Cucumbers: Michigan ranks number 1 in the nation for production of cucumbers for pickling, and 4th for fresh market cucumbers.

11. Maple syrup: Maple syrup production is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States. Right now, in spring, is the time to tap trees! Battel’s Sugar Bush, which is near me, is hosting a tour and pancake breakfast as part of Michigan Maple Weekend.

12. Christmas trees: Michigan supplies 3 million Christmas trees annually to the national market. Real Christmas trees are so beautiful! I love driving past Christmas tree farms in the winter months.

13. Apples: Michigan slices more apples than any other state for use in pies. Michigan also processes apples into applesauce, fresh and shelf-stable apple cider, and apple juice, such as Indian Summer juice which is made in Michigan too! My family loves a cup of fresh cider with a doughnut in autumn.

14. Wheat: Michigan wheat farmers contribute to the national market in a big way, too.  In fact, one of the top 5 counties for producing wheat is Huron, which is where I live! Wheat is used in products from Michigan brands such as Kellogg’s cereals, Aunt Millie’s breads, and Jiffy mixes.

15. Squash: Michigan is 2nd for squash and carrot production, which is good for Michigan companies such as Gerber baby foods. Squash and carrots were favorites with my kids when they were babies!

16. Tomatoes: Michigan is 9th in the nation for production of fresh market tomatoes. This is good news for me, because I love using fresh tomatoes for pico de gallo, which is an easy bbq party dish.

17. Cranberries: Cranberries are grown in Michigan too! I never knew that! Michigan has 280 acres of cranberries and they are harvested every year from September through November.

3307466046_a91c527ea6_b18. Peaches: Michigan is 6th in the nation for production of fresh market peaches. Look out, Georgia! Michigan is in the ranks.

19. Honey: Michigan honey bees are busy little bees! Check out this resource, to find local honey.

20. Farmer’s Markets: Michigan is 4th in the nation for farmer’s markets, supplying fresh farmer products to Michiganders every week. Port Austin is a huge farmer’s market in the Thumb, where I live. The market is very busy in the summer months!

As you can see, there’s so much to love about Michigan! Whether it is the seasons, a multitude of outdoor activities, or the vast array of agricultural products, I believe Pure Michigan is the finest in the nation! I could go on and on about Michigan and food, but to find out more for yourself, visit MichiganAgriculture.com. While you’re online, check out my family’s favorite breakfast recipe: Farm Barbie’s Waffles of Pancakes. Don’t forget to serve them up with Pure Michigan maple syrup!

Which Michigan grown products are your favorites? Learn more about Michigan agriculture in the video below.

FB Profile picBarbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. She’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She’s also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Check out her blog.

 

Pure Michigan April 2015 Events Roundup

It’s time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air! April in Pure Michigan marks the start of spring festivals and outdoor events. From April Fools’ Day fun to food tastings and theme parties, below is a roundup of some of the many events going on around the state next month. Visit michigan.org for a complete listing of things to do this April.

Become a Guest Blogger and Share Your Pure Michigan Experiences

April 1 – 4

Easter on the Green in Pentwater
April 4, Pentwater
Bring your children and family to meet the Easter Bunny. We’ll have an Easter egg hunt, Easter bonnet parade and contest, Easter Bonnet musical chairs, face painting, and games.

Lakeport State Park – Easter egg Hunt
April 4, Lakeport
Bring the kids for an Easter egg hunt at the campground with different hunting areas for specific age groups. Each age group has the opportunity to find the “golden” eggs with special prizes! This event is open to the public.

Kalamazoo Numismatic Club Spring Coin Show
April 4, Kalamazoo
Buy, sell, and trade coins, paper money, and memorabilia. Young Collector’s program and auction at 11 a.m. Admission is free.

Dog Loves Books – Theatre Performance
April 4, Rochester
Louise Yates’ New York Times Best Seller comes to life this musical about the irresistible Dog who loves books SO much that he decides to open up his own bookstore. This delightful musical celebrates the power of the imagination and the satisfaction that comes when you share books with others.

April 5 – 11

University Orchestra Concert
April 8
Listen to talented student performers from the University of Michigan-Flint Music Department. 7:30 p.m. Located at UM-Flint Theatre and admission is $5.

Art Downtown 2015
April 10, Grand Rapids
This “shop hop” will feature the works of several hundred artists in dozens of galleries, businesses, and studio spaces around downtown Grand Rapids. See artists and musicians exhibiting and performing at a variety of sites; witness art in unexpected locations from U-Haul trailers to the art museum, and parking lots to private studios; come early and stay late with family and friends.

FoolMoon

FoolMoon – Ann Arbor

FoolMoon 2015
April 10, Ann Arbor
Foolmoon is a procession of participants carrying hand-made luminary sculptures on Washington Street from dusk to midnight. Also features food, live music, shadow puppets, and film projections.

Shell Eco-marathon America
April 10 -12, Detroit
Hundreds of young engineers will compete in the ultimate energy-efficiency challenge. And visitors of all ages can enjoy a free fun-packed event with interactive attractions. While there, check-out the more than 1,000 high school and university students from around the Americas as they push the limits of efficiency to see which team can drive the farthest distance using the least energy in their student-built vehicles.

Cat Show
April 11, Melvindale
Cat Fancier Association All Breed & Household Pet Cat Show. This show features the exhibition and judging of cats and kittens throughout the day. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 kids, under age 6- no charge.

April 12 – 18

FestiFools 2015
April 12, Ann Arbor
FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art that is free and accessible to everyone. Specifically, we make huge-mongous papier-mâché puppets and march them around downtown Ann Arbor.

PJP_7900-1

MSU Science Festival

MSU Science Festival
April 15 – 18, East Lansing
A FREE multi-day celebration of Science, with more than 150 unique presentations including seminars, demonstrations, tours, open houses, discussion panels and hands on activities for ALL ages. This year’s special guests include Dr. Scott Sampson, of the PBS series Dinosaur Train, and mathemagician, Dr. Arthur Benjamin. On the campus of Michigan State University, and beyond!

Let’s Get Wild
April 16, Bloomfield Hills
We’re taken to “wild” places in Michigan and the Great Lakes and we’ll explore what we are doing to protect them for the future. Admission is free. Get ready to be amazed at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Junk to Funk Eco Fashion Show
April 17, Tecumseh
Evening of stylish models, food, fun, fashion, and wine! The red-carpet comes alive with wearable Eco-fashions created by local artists and designers – using unique, recycled, and repurposed materials. Join us for an evening of fun.

Picture Perfect Photography Hunt
April 18, Lansing
Bring your camera or smartphone and find your artistic voice in our museum galleries. Take a selfie and then post it to the Michigan Historical Museum page on Facebook. Usually, flash is not allowed in the exhibits, so look for the special “flash allowed” signs.

Fashion & Tea
April 18, Grand Rapids
Visitors will take a step back into time. Starting from the Civil War Era to the early 20th Century, you will experience up-close authentic fashion. Coming from the education collection, you will have the opportunity to inspect the workmanship of the seamstress who made them. Tea and sweets will be served as you enjoy this visual feast.

April 19 – 25

Art Walk
April 24, Tecumseh
During the evening, downtown merchants will partner with area artists to bring art into downtown businesses. Merchants will offer extended hours and refreshments for the public to enjoy. Local artists will be on hand to greet people and talk about their work, which will range from pottery to photography to jewelry and more.

Freeland Walleye Festival
April 23 – 26, Freeland
A three day festival celebrating all things walleye, including fireworks, a fish fry, the Walleye parade, walleye tournament, a Texas Hold’Em tournament, car show, 5k/10k race, teen dance and more.

shepherd.maple_.syrup_.festival

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival
April 23 -26. Shepherd
The Village of Shepherd invites you to a great family weekend with parades, classic car display, carnival, tractor and horse pulls, bingo, arts & crafts and of course, scrumptious pancake meals all weekend long.

Bringin’ Back the 80’s
April 24 – 25, Frankenmuth
Bring back hair teasing memories with music, trends and events from the 80s. Don’t sit back in your pegged pants and play Atari–come on down and have a great time. Admission is $10.

Zehnder’s Ragtime Festival
April 22 – 25, Frankenmuth
Zehnder’s has been host to ragtime performers from around the United States and Canada for over 20 years. Come and enjoy ragtime music performed by our featured pianist, Bob Milne and other world renowned musicians.

April 26 – 30

MI Earth Day Fest
April 24 – 26, Rochester
Come visit one of the planet’s largest Earth Day celebrations on the banks of downtown Rochester’s Municipal City Park and the Paint Creek Trail. Explore more than 100 exhibits, speakers, food vendors, kids’ activities, entertainment and more.

Day Out With Thomas: The Thrill of the Rid Tour
April 25 – 26, The Henry Ford
Little engineers won’t believe their eyes—or their ears! This fun-filled event offers little engineers and their families the opportunity to take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine. In addition, children will meet Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of the Railway and enjoy a day of Thomas-themed activities including arts & crafts, storytelling and more.

chocolate

TC Chocolate Festival

Traverse City Chocolate Festival 2015
April 26, Traverse City
A celebration of all things chocolate from the region’s chefs and chocolatiers! Enjoy tastings and samples of local chocolates and confectionery treats, demonstrations and mini-lectures, live music, chocolate-inspired books, art and goods, door prizes and a silent auction for chocolate sculptures.

Local History through Historic Maps
April 26, Traverse City
Come and hear what discoveries were found about historic Frenchtown through the research on 1800s maps.

America’s Got Downtown
April 29, Monroe
The London Daily Telegraph hails the show, a “remarkable, tour de force one-man show.” Luke Kempner creates more than 30 characters in this parody which blends celebrity visitors with well-known characters from Downtown Abbey.

Which April events do you have on your calendar?

In Search of Superior Crystal: Four Photographers Tour the Grand Island Ice Curtains

If you head up north in the deep winter months, chances are you’ll find some ice…and lots of it! Today, guest blogger and landscape photographer Aubrieta Hope shares her journey to the shores of Lake Superior to find and photograph the awe-inspiring Grand Island ice curtains. 

In the heart of winter, when the drifts are as high as houses and snow-dusted pines line the roads, photographers travel to the Upper Peninsula in search of crystal.  Not antique-store crystal, but Superior crystal, the kind that occurs when the north wind turns every drop of open water into something sparkling and new.  During the coldest months, the great lake freezes, heaves and breaks, forming mountains of crystal rocks, so tall they seem like permanent landforms.  Icebergs and volcanoes rise in the harbors and bays, reflecting all the colors of the sky.  Waterfalls slow from a rush to a trickle, building columns that bubble and sing.  And, on the sandstone cliffs, springs that flow unseen in the summer months create glittering ice curtains.

During winter’s last stand, at the very beginning of March, I headed north to find Superior crystal.  My trip was inspired by winter photographs of the U.P. that I’d viewed online. I’d seen dramatic images of enormous frozen waterfalls, great Superior ice fields, and shining rivers wreathed in morning mist.  I wanted to experience and photograph all those scenes, but more than anything, I wanted to see the legendary ice curtains of Grand Island in Munising Bay.  These immense, aqua blue ice curtains form when cold temperatures freeze the springs that seep from the island’s rocky cliffs.  It can be tricky to get to the ice curtains, though.  The island is not accessible every winter because the currents are strong in the bay, preventing adequate ice buildup.  During last year’s historically cold winter, the bay froze sufficiently to allow foot traffic. For awhile it looked like Grand Island would not be accessible this year, but February’s arctic blast arrived just in time.

When I heard that people were safely crossing from Sand Point, I got ready to go, too.  Some were crossing on snowmobiles, others on foot or on cross-country skis.  I donned snowshoes and piled my camera gear into an old plastic saucer-sled rigged with bungee cords.  The crossing took me about half an hour, but I expect the memories to last a lifetime.  My photographer friends Neil Weaver, Craig Sterken and John McCormick made the crossing too. Here’s a glimpse of what we discovered.

The late afternoon sun illuminates majestic ice curtains and boulders. Photographed by Aubrieta Hope.

Michigan Scenery

The sunrise over Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and casts its glow over the ice curtains. Photographed by Craig Sterken.

Craig Sterken Photography

Grand Island grandeur. Photographed by John McCormick.

Michigan Nut Photography

A crystal cave. Photographed by Neil Weaver.

Neil Weaver Photography

Chunks of ice lay on the frozen surface of Lake Superior – previously a part of the magnificent ice formations above.  Photographed by Craig Sterken.

Craig Sterken Photography

Craig Sterken crosses the ice in front of an ice cave. Neil Weaver peeks outside to capture the moment.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 3.35.53 PM

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 3.36.12 PM

Aubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in northern Michigan and a lifelong incurable affection for winter! Aubrieta’s work can be found at www.michiganscenery.com.  To view additional images of the Grand Island ice curtains and other grand landscapes of Michigan, she highly recommends visiting: Neil Weaver Photography. Craig Sterken Photography, Michigan Nut Photography (featuring the photography of John McCormick).