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. SugarMichigan 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 an important ingredient for all types of goodies, like those made at Bon Bon Bon, located in Hamtramck. 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 86, 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. There are approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold each year in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

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 8th 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 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.


Five Ways to Fall in Love with Autumn in Michigan

Welcome to the first day of fall in Pure Michigan.  The autumn season brings many great experiences to enjoy – hiking or biking through brilliant tree tunnels, strolling on still warm beaches and crunching into that perfect orchard apple. If you aren’t quite sold on the harvest season, here are five things to love about fall in Michigan.  Share with us your favorite fall activity or memory by commenting below.

Finding the perfect pumpkin

As Halloween approaches, so does the search for that quintessential pumpkin that will make the perfect jack-o’-lantern or a steaming bowl of pumpkin soup.

Pumpkins are typically harvested in Michigan from September through October.  With many pumpkin patches and farms offering activities like corn mazes, wagon rides and fresh foods from farmers markets, you can make an afternoon out of it.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi.

Jumping in a pile of leaves

Each fall, kids look forward to making the biggest pile of leaves that they can for the sole purpose of making the big jump.  You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy jumping in a pile of leaves or the crunching sound of them beneath your feet.

Trails become covered in freshly fallen leaves during the fall and you can enjoy the sounds of the crunching foliage on one of Michigan’s many hiking or biking trails.

Photo courtesy of Beth Price Photography.

Photo courtesy of Beth Price Photography.

Apple picking season

Michigan is known for its fresh apples during the autumn harvest season.  There are more than 9.2 million apple trees and 850 family-run farms in the state.  There is something special about biting into a juicy Michigan apple that you plucked from a tree branch yourself from a U-Pick farm, or trying out some new recipes with the various varieties of Michigan-grown apples.

Learn more about U-Pick farm, apple tour or cooking inspiration here.

Robinette's Apple Haus  Winery.

Photo courtesy of Robinette’s Apple Haus Winery.

Taking a scenic road trip

Pack up your car for a day or even a long weekend.  The open road is a perfect way to get an up close and personal tour of Michigan’s fall foliage.

Michigan’s well-known fall color routes include M22, Brockway Mountain Drive and Tunnel of Trees, but there are so many scenic routes around the state just waiting to be discovered.   For more information on color tours, visit

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @luc719

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @luc719

Football season

The fall season ushers in the kickoff of football at colleges and universities all around Michigan.  A crisp Saturday afternoon on campus brings students, alumni and fans together to cheer on their team. Consider taking a trip to Ann Arbor to catch a game at iconic Michigan Stadium, better known as The Big House, or the ever-loud and exciting Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. No matter your affiliation, fall football in Michigan is hard to beat.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Gennara Photography.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Gennara Photography.

For more ideas on how to enjoy the fall season in Michigan, visit, where you can download the Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide.

Fall Color and Farm Markets near Silver Lake

Whether you’re a lifetime Michigander or you’re visiting the Great Lakes State for the first time, there’s something uniquely special about experiencing fall in Pure Michigan. Guest blogger Andrea Hekkema from the Silver Lakes Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau shares some of what makes the dunes worth visiting in autumn.

 Autumn has a full color palette in Oceana County.  The dark green spruces, rising pines and the brilliant blues of the lakes and sky balance leaves of deep crimson, glorious golds, rich siennas and umbers.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau

Bountiful harvests of apples and pears color our orchards and plump orange pumpkins and multi-colored squash ripen in the fields. Our temperatures, moderated by Lake Michigan, mean crisp mornings give way to warm days well into October-lots of time for you to enjoy a weekend (or more!) on a color tour with many outdoor activities.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau

Take a drive in the country or a jeep or buggy tour. Consider a ride or stroll on the Hart-Montague Rail Trail, and a canoe or boat trip on one of our inland lakes or rivers. Be sure to stop and check out the fascinating and fun attractions along the way. And of course, while you’re here, indulge your taste buds at one of our roadside farm markets and orchards. The possibilities are as plentiful as the harvest in Oceana County.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau

Still not convinced? Here are some suggestions to get you to “fall” in love with the idea of visiting Oceana County.

Silver Lake: Visit Little Sable Point Lighthouse.  Take a ride over the Silver Lake Sand Dunes and witness a majestic view of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Join a dune buggy tour with Mac Woods or drive your own dune buggy or jeep (rentals are available) through October. Visit Fox Barn Winery and pick up some fresh apple cider or delicious fruit wine.

Historic Downtown Hart: Stroll the downtown district. Enjoy shopping and dining in this small lakeside area. Spend the night or weekend at any of our local hotels.

Mears: After visiting Silver Lake, be sure to stop in Mears. Take time to see the Oceana County Historical Transportation Museum.

The Hart-Montague Rail Trail is a 22 mile linear state park. The entire trail is at least a 10-foot wide paved trail through rich farm land, forests and quaint villages. There are many stops along the way to rest or catch a bite to eat. Start your trip at the Trail Head in downtown Hart, and enjoy your scenic tour of our beautiful area.

Bring your canoe or boat to enjoy the beauty of the season from a different point of view. Public launches and boat ramps can be found at Hart Lake and Silver Lake. You can also rent a canoe, kayak, tube, or raft at Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery and experience the scenic White River.

Map Courtesy of Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau


What is your favorite fall activity in Pure Michigan?