Enjoy your local farmers market!

 

While Michigan is closing in on the autumn season, farmers markets throughout the state are going strong — selling Michigan-grown produce, fruits and other items directly to area families.

In today’s modern society, with grocery and convenience stores on virtually every corner, farmers markets are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Growing, selling and buying local is a great benefit to all. In fact, over the last 15 years the number of farmers markets in Michigan has grown from around 90 in 2001 to more than 300 today.

In addition to the farmers markets across the state, the Michigan Capitol enjoys three opportunities to buy great Michigan-made products each summer. The first event was held in late July and the second one was on Thursday. The remaining farmers market day at the Capitol is Sept. 22, running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the east lawn.

The Capitol farmers market program attracts more than 100 vendors who sell about $1,100 in goods to more than 22,000 customers for a final estimated sale of $200,000. That’s not bad for three days.

Farmers markets are a small but important contributor to our state’s overall food and agriculture industry. The industry contributes $101.2 billion annually to the state’s economy, employing more than 900,000 workers — or about 22 percent of the state’s workforce.

We encourage all Michigan residents to get out and support our more than 52,000 farms by stopping by your local farmers market.

To find a farmer market near you, visit: www.mifma.org/findafarmersmarket.

National Blueberry Festival in South Haven

Everyone is familiar with Traverse City cherries, but many people are unaware that Michigan is also the nation’s leading producer of cultivated blueberries — with the majority of production done on family farms in Southwest Michigan.

Most of these farms are located within Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties and contribute to the roughly 100 million pounds of blueberries produced each year.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, who represents Allegan and Van Buren counties in the state Senate, recently discussed how important blueberry production is to the economies of both Southwest Michigan and the entire state. Blueberry production alone injects nearly $122 million into the state’s economy.

The senator encouraged residents to help continue making these numbers grow by purchasing berries from a local farmer, a store that sells local produce or a bakery that uses blueberries from nearby farms.

Schuitmaker also noted the $122 million does not include tourism revenue generated from the state’s several blueberry festivals. Tourists from around the nation flock to Michigan to attend the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven.

The 48th consecutive National Blueberry Festival is underway and runs from Aug. 11 to Aug. 14.

For a list of events, directions, parking and other information for this year’s festival, visit www.blueberryfestival.com.

Stamas completes 2016 Heritage Route 23 Legislative Tour

Sen. Jim Stamas and several state and local officials recently completed a two-day legislative tour of Heritage Route 23.

“My goal in leading this successful tour was to bring attention to Michigan’s sunrise side and to better engage state leaders with the community on local issues critical to the region,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This hands-on tour offered us a unique chance to bring together multiple state department directors, tourism officials and economic development leaders to see what northeastern Michigan has to offer, promote tourism in the region and help improve the area economy.”

Beginning at Wheeler’s Restaurant in Standish, the tour traveled 200 miles along the U.S. 23 Heritage Route from Standish to Mackinaw City — finishing with a stop at the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.

In addition to seeing the museum in Mackinaw City with Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, and Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz, some of the tour highlights included:

  • Visiting a Standish grain elevator and Alpena dairy farm with MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams;
  • Checking out the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse in Rogers City with DNR Director Bill Moritz;
  • Seeing the MidMichigan Medical Center in Alpena with Michigan DHHS Director Nick Lyon;
  • Attending the “Good Morning Alpena” breakfast at the Brown Trout Festival; and
  • Touring a veterans office in Rogers City with Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, chair of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.

Also joining Stamas on the tour were Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle; Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare; Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford; DEQ Director Keith Creagh; and numerous other officials from state and local government.

Heritage Route 23 along Lake Huron is one of Michigan’s hidden gems. Families can experience spectacular lake views, check out numerous historical and cultural sites and enjoy a wide variety of recreational opportunities — from relaxing on miles of beaches to staying at one of more than 50 area campgrounds to visiting one of many historic lighthouses.

To discover more information on Heritage Route 23, visit www.us23heritageroute.org.

July is National Blueberry Month

It’s hard to beat Michigan in July. Summer is in full swing; we celebrate our nation’s independence; and it’s National Blueberry Month.

Michigan’s food and agriculture industry is a significant part of the state’s economy, yet blueberries are sometimes overshadowed by the more talked-about crops grown here.

However, don’t be fooled: blueberry production and export plays a vital role in our economy.

According to the Michigan State University Extension, Michigan blueberry growers typically produce more than 100 million pounds of 30 different blueberry varieties across more than 21,000 acres of Michigan farmland — each year!

Six hundred family farms grow, harvest, pack and process the berries — contributing more than $122 million to our state’s economy.

More than half of the harvest is packed and shipped fresh to market, while the remainder is frozen, puréed, concentrated or canned. In addition to being delicious, blueberries are also healthy. They possess some of the highest levels of antioxidants seen in fruit, are packed with key vitamins and are a good source of fiber.

National Blueberry Month helps to kick-off the blueberry harvest season, which typically runs from July through September.

Help celebrate and pick up some fresh Michigan-grown blueberries at your favorite farmers market this summer. They are good and good for you!

It’s National Dairy Month!

Got milk? In Michigan, our milk is local. Our nearly 2,000 dairy farms produce more than enough milk to meet our needs and still export milk to other states.

In 2014, dairy cows in Michigan produced approximately 9.6 billion pounds of milk – or more than 1.1 billion gallons!

Michigan now ranks 6th in the nation for milk production and third in milk production per cow.

June is National Dairy Month and is a time to celebrate the contributions our dairy industry. It began in 1937 as National Milk Month, but soon changed its focus to honor all dairy products.

Michigan’s dairy industry is the top-ranking segment of the state’s food and agriculture industry, contributing $14.7 billion to the state’s economy each year.

The Michigan Senate Republicans encourage residents to salute our hard-working dairy farmers and processors for their dedication to building healthy lives and communities.

About 97 percent of Michigan’s dairy farms are family-owned. Each day our family farmers get up before dawn to help provide us with fresh and high-quality milk and other dairy products

Dairy products provide essential nutrients needed to build strong bones and a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. In addition, Michigan dairy farms and processors also provide jobs and contribute billions of dollars to our economy each year.