By Stephanie Rauhe
Michigan is the second-most agriculturally diverse state, with farmers growing a wide variety of produce and specialty crops, such as cherries, asparagus and blueberries.
Certain areas produce large amounts of such crops, such as cherries around Traverse City, juice grapes in the Grand Rapids area and vegetables in the Saginaw Bay and Thumb areas, according to the Michigan Farm Bureau industry relations specialist Theresa Sisung.
Buying local, in-season produce has many benefits for both the farmer and the consumer, she said.
“If people are purchasing in season, it’s typically a local purchase,” Sisung said. “They’re usually purchasing fresh products.”
Loren Koeman, lead economist for the Farm Bureau, said the seasons play a crucial role in farming.
“A number of products in Michigan have a limited fresh season because we’re in the North,” he said. “When those things are in season, consumers are going to get fresher products that are grown locally.”
Asparagus season begins in early May and ends in late June, cherries are harvested from late June to August and blueberries are in season from mid-July to early September, according to Michigan Grown.
Imported crops are beginning to have a heavy effect on the state’s agricultural industry, putting pressure on farmers who are unable to produce crops year-round, Sisung said.
“We’re starting to lose acres of crops and farmers that are choosing to grow those crops,” she said. “They stopped growing some of these specialty crops and they typically don’t start back up.”
Asparagus, cherries and blueberries are just three examples of Michigan crops that suffer economically from import pressure.
In the last 10 years, 50 Michigan producers stopped growing asparagus, accounting for a loss of a third of the state’s total production, according to Sisung.
In the Traverse City area, orchards and fields with cherry trees and blueberry bushes are being sold for development, according to Sisung.
One bonus of buying locally grown produce is that the community’s economy benefits.
“Every dollar that someone would spend on Michigan products like fruits and vegetables is going to stay in the economy,” Koeman said. “Those farmers that are raising those crops are going to shop at local stores to buy their fertilizer and all their farm products from local vendors.”
Stephanie Rauhe reports for Capital News Service