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.


11 thoughts on “Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known About Michigan Agriculture

  1. I’m 76,and I can remember my grandfather, a truck farmer, telling me “you can hear the corn grow at night”. My husband and I are farmers and we love this life.’

  2. Do you think she doesn’t care what her family eats or her customers eat? Of course she does, and she and her husband know all about GMOs, which is why I’m sure she doesn’t fear the results of an advanced breeding technique. If you have specific questions, please ask.

  3. Greatly enjoyed your article re: MI agriculture! My father was a farmer in Montcalm County and in 1977 was the first farmer to raise sunflowers in Montcalm County. I still have the Michigan Farmer Magazine where he was featured. Some of my fondest memories was “…watching the crops grow.” which we did every night throughout the summer as we drove around our farm. To this day I still enjoy watching the crops grow and the smells and the joys that country life brings. Thanks again!

  4. After reading about Michigans agricultural standing in the USA we really need to have a true Michigan state fair to highlight to our citizens and visitors to our state that we truly need an expanded fair other than the one that is held in the parking lot at the Suburban Collection in Novi. This version is not a true state fair like they have in Indiana,Ohio or Texas and other states that draw millions of visitors. Our state has so many resources to be put on display for others to see it is a diservice to our farmers to go without any large permanent place in this state to display their products. Our grape growers who run the many vineyards,the dairy farmers, the tree farms, the strawberry, blueberry growers,the corn and potato growers need a place to show off their products.
    This needs to be pushed forward to our do nothing legislature to at least show its residents of this great state a little respect for our farmers and give them an opportunity to do a little bragging about who is concerned for what our state is all about.Get moving Lansing earn your pay checks the old fashioned way,work and get this state a permanent place for an agricultural fair.

  5. Vernor’s ginger ale and Faygo is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, NOT Michigan sugar! We should start a to lobby these companies to actually use sugar.

  6. ……and what contamination would that be? Please elaborate – explain in detail why you fear GMOs, using examples of people who have been harmed in some way by them. Or just admit that you have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about…

  7. I think part of the problem is that those of us who abhor Monsanto for their bully tactics and lobbying are automatically assumed to be part of the anti-GMO crowd because we are often part of the same groups.. We share many things in common – regional farming and farm-to-table, etc – but not necessarily identical views on GMO.

  8. This means I’m very thankful for the pickers who spend long hot hours under the blistering summer heat to put food on my table. True Michigan to me includes the hundreds of thousands of farmworkers who dedicate their lives to provide us with nourishment… may we provide them with the same care and dedication they have for us!

  9. I was told all sugar beets are now GMO. Only non GMO is cane Sugar. I honestly don’t know if it is true, but it is what I was told.

  10. Talk to someone who farmed before GMO and ask them what they used to fight insects and weeds in their production farming. I wish people would take the time to actually sit down and discuss these issues with someone who is a 3rd, 4th or 5th generation farmer. Unfortunately people want to believe what they read on the internet as the truth. What facts do you provide to state your claim against GMO? And not repeat something you read on the internet but actual research.

  11. I sure hope she is helping also to enforce the no GMO’s in our food supply. She has a young family and should be very concerned about keeping our food “clean and free from contamination” for herself, her family and all of beautiful Michigan.

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