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.

 

Michigan’s Oldest Irish Pub and Other Ways To Embrace the Emerald Isle

It’s time once again to put on your favorite green attire, cook up some corned beef and cabbage and embrace your inner Irish spirit! Our friends at the Awesome Mitten gathered up some ways that Michiganders are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day across the state. 

Though Michigan may be thousands of miles away from Ireland, the Mitten State knows how to embrace the spirit of the Emerald Isle. From parades and pub crawls, to beer-filled 5K’s, to visiting what is speculated as “Michigan’s Oldest Irish Pub,” there is a way to celebrate this lucky day in every region of the Great Lakes State.

Irish Pubs and Eateries

The Murphy – St. Clair
It is nearly impossible to say which Irish Pub in Michigan is the very oldest, but The Murphy is a strong contender. It was originally built to be a boarding house in 1836, however, is now a quaint inn with a sneaky, wild Irish Pub downstairs. There are seven guest rooms with private baths available; the perfect place to rest your head if festivities get out of hand downstairs. If you are in Southeast Michigan for the holiday, stop by The Murphy for a traditional Irish beverage and a historical tour of the inn. Staff swear that the dwelling is haunted, so be sure to ask for their best stories.

Photo via The Daily Meal.

Photo via The Daily Meal.

Fenian’s – Conklin
Fenian’s is widely considered the one of the best Irish pubs in Michigan, and for good reason. In fact, it was named to The Daily Meal’s list of 18 Most Authentic Irish Pubs in America.  After the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, everyone ends up here (free of charge) for live Celtic music, food, and of course, plenty of drink.

Metro Detroit
Detroit may not have a green river, but there are countless ways to fuel up at one of Metro Detroit’s Irish pubs and eateries. Here are just a few to get you started.

Old Shillelagh, Detroit
- Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub, Detroit
- The Blarney Stone Pub, Berkley
- Dick O’Dows Irish Pub, Birmingham
- Rosie O’Grady’s, Ferndale
- Sean O’Callaghan’s, Plymouth
- O’Connor’s Public House, Rochester
- O’Tooles, Royal Oak

Parades and Parties

Photo courtesy of Katy Batdorff Photography

Photo courtesy of Katy Batdorff Photography

Many places got the party started this past weekend with parades, festivals and other gatherings. But the fun doesn’t end on March 17th! There are events planned throughout the entire month of March. Check out michigan.org to see how other Michigan cities celebrate the day.

Irish on Ionia – Grand Rapids
This  event is for the hearty and the rowdy. Festivities got going on Ionia Street as early as 7am on Saturday, March 14th and continued deep into the night. 2015 marked the 5th annual event of Irish on Ionia. DJs and live music entertained the crowds all day, while many participating restaurants served up their favorite Irish concoctions.  Check out this photo gallery from the event to get you geared up for the holiday tomorrow!

Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K and Saint Patrick’s Day Parade – Traverse City
Runners rose early on Saturday, March 14th and donned their greenest running attire. The Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K mixed a morning workout with free beer, live entertainment and a smashing post-race party at the Inside Out Gallery.  The State Street Grill welcomed parade-goers before and after the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade presented by the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.

St. Patrick’s Day Party – Bessemer
As Michiganders know, the snow we accumulate throughout the winter lingers far into March. St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to get some spring skiing in. Big Powderhorn Mountain in the Western Upper Peninsula is featuring a tremendous St. Patrick’s Day party at Caribou Lodge with live music being played all day. Leprechaun costumes are encouraged and the Irish beverages will be abundant.

Krazy Daze at Boyne Highlands

Krazy Daze at Boyne Highlands

Krazy Daze – Boyne Highlands
While Krazy Daze takes place after St. Patrick’s Day (March 20th-21st), it’s the perfect opportunity to keep the festivities going with green costumes and games galore. Whether you’re a face-painted kid taking a pass at the Silly Slalom, or a kid at heart warming up for the Ski Over the Pond competition at a tailgate party, you’ll find fun and laughter to keep you smiling all weekend long.

For Michiganders, St. Patrick’s Day is another sign that spring is near. So bundle up, raise your glass, celebrate the end of the bitter cold, and salute the hearty Irish at one of the hundreds of events Michigan has to offer.

How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? 

pmphotoJennifer Hamilton has lived in various cities around the great state of Michigan and presently resides in Traverse City. When not drinking, examining, and researching the great craft beers offered in this region, Jennifer can be found trying to balance her marathon training schedule, day job, MSW course load, and three rambunctious dogs

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.

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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).