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 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.

 

6 Ways to Explore the Real Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti has become a vibrant arts hotspot around an ever-growing foodie scene. Their rich history is waiting to be discovered in every historic building and park setting. Interested in learning more? The Ypsilanti Convention and Visitors Bureau shares six new things to discover in Ypsilanti. 

1. Eat the eats Ypsilanti takes pride in fostering the visions and dreams of local restaurant owners. From fine dining to the more casual,  the city has a passion for bringing folks together over a juicy burger, a fresh salad or a special dessert. Our chefs are unassuming, fully committing themselves to the power of a delicious meal.

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

 2. See the parks After indulging at the local restaurants, visit one of the many parks in Ypsilanti to walk off those calories. Riverside Park is a favorite amongst locals as it lies along the banks of the Huron River. Take the three-pointed bridge, called the tridge, from Riverside Park to Frog Island where you’ll find a historic, outdoor amphitheater and a vintage running track. Have a passion for bicycling? The Border-to-Border Trail, which links the entire county from Ford Lake to the city of Dexter.

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

 3. Drink the drinks Beer and coffee are the name of the game in Ypsilanti. Breweries, tap houses and artisanal coffee shops line the streets of this up-and-coming city. It’s not about the light beers or corporate lattes in Ypsilanti. Every sip is considered. Every drink is a craft.

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

 4. Learn the history Ypsilanti’s history is rich, vibrant, and relevant when you consider it is home to four museums a dedicated group of local historians and historical architecture.

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

5. Pick some apples The fall season is the perfect time for Wiard’s Cider Mill and Apple Orchard in Ypsilanti Township. Families can go apple picking, select that perfect pumpkin, enjoy  a hayride and get lost in the corn mazes. The open air and endless activities are best if followed by warm cider and sugar donuts.

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

Photo courtesy of the Ypsilanti CVB

 6. Discover Eastern Michigan University Whether you’re exploring student and faculty galleries, enjoying a production at the campus theatre or taking a stroll through the walkable campus – Eastern Michigan University is home to many exciting activities. Football, basketball and volleyball games are full of team spirit and held in beautiful facilities. Buildings throughout campus create a beautiful juxtaposition of historic and modern architecture.

Make daily discoveries about Ypsilanti by following Ypsi Real on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.You’ll find photos, videos, and blogs about this historic, yet ever-evolving city in Southeast Michigan!

What do you plan to check out in Ypsilanti this autumn?

Five Reasons Why Michigan Apples are the Flavor of Fall

Crunching into a crisp apple, sipping delicious freshly-pressed cider or scooping up a slice of homemade apple pie – these experiences are fall traditions in Michigan. To share just some of the many great things about apples grown in the Great Lakes state, the Michigan Apple Committee details five reasons why Michigan grows the “Flavor of Fall”.

Around mid-August, you really start to crave the crunchy, juicy bite of a fresh Michigan apple. By the end of August, apples are coming off trees and we’re ready to find them at the grocery store, farm market, cider mill or U-pick orchard.

It’s not just the crunch we crave, either.  As the crisp fall air sets in, with its cool breezes and changing colors, we gather together for fall traditions. In Michigan, the fall involves the local U-pick orchard, cider mill or farmer’s market.

In the spirit of these time-honored favorites, the Michigan Apple Committee has put together five reasons why the Michigan apple is the “Flavor of Fall.”

1. It’s in our own backyard. Michiganders know what we have here is something special. There are more than 200 orchards, U-pick farms and stores across the state where we can enjoy Michigan’s bounty, and plenty of fun family activities and events for all ages.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

2. An apple a day. We all know the saying, and here’s the thing – it’s true. Scientists continue to find more health benefits to regularly eating apples. They are low in sodium and calories, as well as high in fiber and antioxidants.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

3. It’s a family thing. With hard cider for adults, fun activities for the kid, and cider and donuts for everyone, there are plenty of reasons why Michigan’s agri-tourism locations are standing room only in the fall. We’re brought together by the delicious apple and its products.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

4. Importance to our state. Michigan has a strong and diverse agriculture industry and apples are the largest and most valuable fruit crop in the state.  Michigan’s state flower was even named the apple blossom because of the region’s reputation as a supplier of apples. As the third-largest apple producing state in the nation, there were 24 million bushels, or about 1.008 billion pounds, of apples harvested in Michigan in 2014.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

5. Where Apples Love to Grow. Michigan’s cool fall nights and warm, sunny days contribute to the delicious flavor you experience each time you crunch into a locally-grown apple. Not only that, the Great Lakes and Michigan’s climate allows for ideal growing conditions. These factors, plus 850 dedicated growers, make Michigan-grown apples the best-tasting apples you’ll find.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Michigan-grown apples are definitely Pure Michigan and so is the experience you’ll have with your family, whether you’re gathering around a homemade pie, sipping some award-winning cider or strolling through a local orchard.

For more information on the Michigan apple industry, visit michiganapples.com/healthy-living.

What do you love most about Michigan apples?