The wine industry in northern Michigan is bigger than ever, and vineyards are popping up everywhere you look. It's a business that has a multi-million dollar impact on the state, and is expected to continue to grow. Winemakers on the Leelanau Peninsula say the region is great for grapes; the snow insulates the vines, the peninsulas are surrounded by water, and the summer sunshine doesn't hurt either.
9&10's Sara Simnitch and photojournalist Jeremy Erickson go from vine to wine, talking to Mark Carlson of Silver Leaf, Larry Mawby of L Mawby and Andrew McFarlane of Leelanau.com and the Leelanau Wine Trail in this special report:
4-H members from across the county will gather at Suttons Bay High School on Saturday, April 6th, from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. for their annual 4-H showcase. The public is invited and encouraged to participate.
The 4-H Expo features educational displays, live animals, chess matches and demonstrations by 4-H members. The 4-H clubs will also offer a variety of fun, hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.
Each year the members take on a community project, reflecting the 4-H philosophy of service to others. This year, members and the public are invited to bring individually wrapped child friendly foods like fruit snacks, cheese and crackers packs, fruit cups, cans of tuna, chicken or soup, small boxes of cereal, etc. to donate to an organization in our area called "Blessings in a Backpack". This organization feeds local children on weekends during the school year.
The 4-H Expo is free and open to the public. Lunch concessions will be available onsite. For further information contact the Leelanau MSU Extension office at 256-9888.
Discussion is percolating about developing the Commons into a regional food hub, with a year-round indoor farmer's market, processing centers and even a restaurant incubator with test kitchens — all housed in a building that used to prepare food for hospital patients and staff.
J.T. "Chip" Hoagland of Cherry Capital Foods in Traverse City is part of an ad-hoc group led by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, a regional economic planning organization.
"There's a warehouse and bakery building that had lots of coolers that was the centerpiece for food production on campus," Hoagland said. "The basic configuration is there."
One function for the potential food hub: Supplying the Traverse City Area Public Schools with fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Rob Sirrine, an educator with the Michigan State University Extension in Grand Traverse County and a champion of using the Commons as a food hub, said equipment is going to be purchased in the next three months that will process locally produced food and deliver it to the schools by this fall. For now, the processing will happen at Cherry Capital Foods, with a shift to the Commons if funding from a state grant goes through.
Read on for more about plans for the Grand Traverse Regional Market.
"What does this have to do with Leelanau?" you might ask. It's pretty simple - Leelanau is one of the farming engines that's driving our regional local food economy and efforts like this help small farmers get good prices for their food and get that food to consumers!
On November 27th at the Suttons Bay High School Auditorium, the Farm Labor Task Force of Leelanau Unit, League of Women Voters Grand Traverse Area, will show the film American Harvest followed by a panel discussion with representatives from the local agricultural community. Light refreshments at 6:00 PM. Film at 6:30 PM.
The documentary American Harvest portrays the truth about agriculture and migrant labor in the United States at the present time. In a series of candid interviews with farmers and farm workers from Florida to Maine the viewer objectively learns the facts and dispels the myths connected with migrant farm workers. The suggested donation for the event is $5. The public is invited.
This presentation has been organized as a follow up to the Leelanau Unit, LWVGTA's year long study on the past, current and proposed employment methods and work visa programs used by agricultural employers in our area. Invite colleagues, friends and all others you think would like to know more about the challenges our agricultural employers face finding skilled workers.
The farmers market will showcase local fruits and vegetables and other locally made products. This market is open to the public and all products are available for sale. Please stop by to support local farmers and the Leland Public Schools.
For further information contact MSU Extension at 231-256-9888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UpNorthLive's Brody O'Connell has a report on the 2012 vintage that says that our grapes are running about 2 weeks ahead of usual thanks to the warm weather thusfar:
Northern Michigan vineyards are looking surprisingly full for this time of year. In fact, they are developing two weeks ahead of schedule.
High temperatures and sun-filled days have set the stage for what wine makers are projecting to be a banner season.
“It sets us up for being able to get all of our fruit ripe. It’s going to make for some really nice red wines. Usually we are crunched up against the end of the picking season into the cold weather to get those where we want them, so we're looking forward to excellent reds and prefect quality in white wines,” said Doug Matthies, owner, Big Paw Vineyard Services.
The Leelanau Enterprise reports that in addition to making it a rough winter for those who depend on snow for winter sports, the lack of snow this winter is proving troubling for wine grape growers. They talked with Charlie Edson:
Edson, of Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery north of Cedar, has more than 100 grape varietals planted on 32 acres in Centerville Township that are susceptible to freezing without snow cover.
“I don’t know how hardy the vines are. I’m guessing not as hardy as we would like,” he said.
As of Wednesday, 43 inches of snow had been recorded at the Road Commission garage in Suttons Bay, about half the 85 inches from a year ago at the same point of winter. Adding insult to injury is that any snow that has come has melted away due to unseasonably warm temperatures. On Friday, the mercury broke 50 degrees at the Enterprise weather station in Lake Leelanau. A high of 60 was recorded in the past week at the Road Commission garage in Maple City.
Those readings are a concern for grape growers throughout the region.
“It’s a problem for us,” said Erwin “Duke” Elsner, Michigan State University small fruit production & viticulture specialist based in Traverse City. “Snow is a primary source of insulation providing up to 10 degrees of protection. If it gets down to minus 5, the temperature around the vine can be 5 above.”
While lack of snow is also a concern for local small fruit trees, it is less concerning than for grapevines. Elsner explained that tree trunks comprised of sturdy tissue can survive lower temperatures.
Last week the TC Ticker posted a cool feature on Farm 651 near Cedar. They report that the Farm 651 project was selected from thousands of applications for the "Pepsi Refresh Contest" for November. Each month, Pepsi gives away over $1 million to 60 ideas that move communities forward. You can vote once a day until a winner is awarded at the Farm 651 at Pepsi Refresh. They also write that:
While most farms are shutting down for winter, one area farm is plotting out a path to education.
Farm 651 - an 80-acre, eco-agricultural farm just south of Cedar - is working to become a learning campus for students in pursuit of agricultural skills and knowledge.
“We’ve received intern applications from all over the world - from as far away as Ghana, Chicago, California and, of course, locally,” says Jason Roggensee, who established “The 651 Project” as a licensed Michigan non-profit organization in August with his wife, Junie.
Students can apply to live and work on the functioning farm, while studying specific focuses: organic farming, viticulture, construction technology, agri-tourism, responsible landscape design, and green energy technology.
Housing will be provided, and product sales via farm markets and onsite retail facilities will serve as a living stipend.
The couple’s biggest priority? Building a student “nest.” Starting next spring, they plan to start construction on a two-story, super-efficient farmhouse-style structure that should house six students comfortably.
According to a report produced by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments "accommodation and food services" represented about one in six total jobs available in Leelanau County as of 2009. And, increasingly, these jobs are no longer seasonal only.
"It's really interesting how many restaurants are in the county and the fact that most of those stay open year round," said Matt McCauley, director of regional planning for the council of governments.
Like Hoagland, McCauley credits the local-food movement for a restaurant boom that is not so dependent on tourist season.
"Leelanau County is truly a leader in a resurgence around agriculture," McCauley said. "Because of the wineries, hops farms, all sorts of burgeoning agriculture and value-added activity, all sorts of people are choosing to locate here to be part of that."
By "value-added," he means businesses such as Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, which not only uses local cherries but also turns them into chocolates, jam and other products that then are shipped around the world.
In addition, McCauley said, "The restaurants in the region — and we're getting more and more notoriety as a foodie destination — are choosing and actually seeking out local products for their menu items."
Leelanau Farmer's Markets are underway in Glen Arbor, Lake Leelanau, Leland, Northport and Suttons Bay. They offer you a chance to get out and connect with farmers and other folks who produce food in Leelanau County. Tell us your favorite Leelanau farmers market in our poll!
Tuesdays in Glen Arbor
9 am—1 pm
June 21 - August 30
Location: Behind the Township Hall on Western Ave
Thursdays in Leland
June 23 - September 1
Location: Parking lot across from the Bluebird Restaurant
Fridays in Northport
9 am—1 pm
June 17 - September 16
Location: The Depot, next to the marina
Saturdays in Suttons Bay
9 am—1 pm
May 14 - October 22
NEW Location: North Park; intersection of M-204 & M-22, water side
Saturdays in Empire
9 am—1 pm
June 18 - September 10
Location: Downtown, next to the Post Office
Sundays in Lake Leelanau
9 am—1 pm
June 19 - September 4
Location: Parking lot across from NJ's Grocery downtown
Radishes, eggs, salad greens and garlic from Abra at Bare Knuckle Farm
Taste the Local Difference is a comprehensive guide that includes farm, farm market, CSA, winery and other listings with addresses, phone numbers and an index to seasonal food availability. The guide includes farms and winery listings, CSA contacts, addresses, phone numbers and an index to seasonal food availability. A kind of phone book for food. No need to shuffle through the yellow pages--just pick up a guide and start eating!