Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known About Michigan Agriculture
Michigan is known for many things, but maybe the most under-the-radar industry is the state's diverse agriculture scene. Michigan farming provides consumers with not only food and fiber on nearly 10 million acres of farmland, but it also lays the foundation for a dynamic food and agriculture industry, making it one of our state's critical economic drivers, substantially contributing to our state's economy each year.
Guest blogger Barbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, shares 20 little known facts about freshly grown Michigan food and agriculture.
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 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 6th in the nation for the production of milk, 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.
4. Beans: Michigan is 1st in the nation for production of dry black beans, cranberry beans, and small red beans, and 2nd for the 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 for potato chip processing. Better Made Chips, which just turned 89, 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 140 commercial wineries and more than 3,000 acres of wine grape vineyards. The state’s number 1 planted variety is Riesling.
7. Asparagus: Michigan ranks #1 in the nation for asparagus production. Unlike asparagus from other states, Michigan asparagus is hand-snapped above the ground (or harvested by hand), resulting in a more tender and flavorful product.
8. Eggs: Michigan egg farmers supply all the eggs to McDonald’s restaurants east of the Mississippi River. 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 ranks number 3 nationally for the production of blueberries - and fewer than 600 Michigan family farms do it all. That’s amazing!
10. Cucumbers: Michigan ranks number 1 in the nation for production of cucumbers for pickling, and 3rd for fresh market cucumbers.
11. Maple Syrup: Maple syrup production is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States, with early spring the ideal 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 nearly 2 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: Apples are one of the largest and most valuable fruit crops in Michigan. The state 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 produces more squash than any other state and is the fourth-highest fresh carrot producing state in the country, 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 5th in the nation for production of 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.
18. Peaches: Fresh Michigan peaches are available from early July to mid September, with popular and new varieties including the Red Haven Peach and Michigan Flamin’ Fury. Look out, Georgia! Michigan ranks 8th in the nation for peach production.
19. Honey: Michigan honey bees are busy little bees! Beekeepers harvest Michigan honey in summer or early fall, but some continue throughout the year, making the sweet treat available for consumers year round.
20. Farmer’s Markets: Michigan is 3rd in the nation for farmer’s markets, supplying farm fresh 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! Find a farmer's market near you here.
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 agriculture and Michigan farming, but to find out more for yourself, visit MichiganAgriculture.com.
About the Author: Barbara 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.