Southwest

Michigan Food Producers 

I’m always amazed to see the large number of creative Michigan food producers as I travel around the state. Here’s what I found while at VegFest 2016 in Novi, MI. Look for them online, in stores, and at farmers markets.

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I’ve had El Cardenal salsa and tamales when they were in Grand Rapids. Delish!

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Ope’s came all the way from Kalamazoo.

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Bob loves the spicy popcorn from Cynt-Sation.

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A vegan? Where do you get your protein? From lentil snacks!! I’ve also seen these at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. 

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MI Pops are from Mason, MI.

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Lots of great flavor selection.

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Detroit BBQ!

IMG_1050 Available in West MI, Kalamazoo, and Lansing.

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Whole food bars.

IMG_1053 Great to find a product with MI oats!

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I’ve purchased this pasta at the Detroit Eastern Market; good substitute for those avoiding wheat.

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What’s not to like about vegan soft serve?

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I had to try a doughnut!

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First time I had these was in the U.P. They are available in many areas of MI.

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Gotta have some savory with the sweet!

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Gourmet Dressings.

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More gourmet – from Clarkston.

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Bakery that caters to those with food sensitivities.

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More MI granola!

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Oh my. Pie is my favorite dessert.

 

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Preserves and condiments made in MI.

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HOT!

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Get your gut health here! The Brinery in Ann Arbor.

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They also have fitness sessions.

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Looks like a great choice for a special occasion.

To see the restaurants at VegFest Novi 2016, visit this link.

8th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food FestivalThis is my favorite festival of THE YEAR! It’s happening in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 19 (5-10pm), Friday, Nov. 20 (4pm-10pm), and Saturday, Nov. 21 (Noon-10pm) and held at DeVos Place, Downtown. There’s nearly three acres of food, beer, wine, cider, fun and more! It’s $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. A day pass is available for $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 19 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 19). All food and beverage samples require varied amounts of sampling tickets of 50-cent denominations (sold at the Festival). It is suggested that guests start with at least $20 worth of tasting tickets. Attendance at this festival is for those 21 years of age and older. ID is required for admittance.

Follow me on Instagram for my highlights!

Below is their 2015 media information.

NEW: The Elite Wine Collection — Located in the center of the Vineyard, inside the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, this special collection of wine has been selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages, chosen from among 1200 assorted wines. These high-end wines require a minimum 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the cost of the product being served. Each of these wines have at least a 90-point value in a recognized wine rating system and are regarded as among the most elite wines of the world, by both the trade industry and consumers alike. No need to invest hundreds of dollars in a full bottle—the Elite Wine Collection allows you the opportunity to sample the finest wines of the Festival for a minimal cost.

Beer City Station — The Festival’s popular beer area has been moved to the Main Floor of DeVos Places (off the Grand Gallery in Exhibit Hall C, meaning no more congestion and no more lines! Step into the world of creative craft beers, imported and domestic brews, hard ciders and foods that pair well with both. Meet the American craft brewer—the small, independent and traditional producers who display passion and excitement for their unique beverages. New products, as well as traditional favorites, will be offered for sampling.

Cider Row — Featured in the Beer City Station in Exhibit Hall C off of the Grand Gallery. Tap into the Cider Row at the Festival, featuring almost 20 cider producers from Michigan and nationally-known brands. Hard cider is among the fastest growing craft beverages, on a national scale. It is fermented to produce a range of flavors – from dry to sweet.

GROWERS CHAMPGNE FLIGHTS:
Add a little extra class to your glass with an intimate tasting with Bradford Hammerschmidt from Imperial Beverage. These special flights offer champagnes you will not find anywhere else in the Festival. Each of the champagnes will be paired with specially selected cheese and crudités from Terra GR. Flights offered Friday and Saturday at 7pm only. The cost is $40 per person. Reservations may be made online, or on site – space permitting.

PAIRINGS:
Five select restaurants partner with distinguished wineries and breweries for special Pairings – gourmet multi-course meals served on-site in a casual yet intimate “bar top” setting. Tickets are $45-$60 each and may be purchased in advance online or at the Festival on a first-come, first-served basis. This year’s restaurants include: Ganders, San Chez, six.one.six, Vintage Prime & Seafood and Wolfgang Puck’s The Kitchen. Buy tickets online here.

ULTIMATE DINING OPPORTUNITIES:
Additionally, chefs from the 14 of the area’s top restaurants prepare and serve small plates of their culinary specialties.

RENDEZBREW:
The Coffee, Cordials and Dessert Café will be open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival. Start your Festival experience, or make it a nightcap, with unique pairings of coffee, lattes and cocktails crafted for your enjoyment with a variety of cordials, indulgent sweets and other treats.

SEMINARS & WORKSHOPS:
Esteemed individuals from the culinary world host demonstrations on the Meijer Food Stage. Free beverage seminars, held classroom-style in the rooms off the Grand Gallery, give attendees an in-depth look into the world of wine, beer and spirits. Workshops are also offered for a unique hands-on experience for those wishing to learn tricks of the trade from top leaders in the world of food and drink.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING:
Shop the Riverfront Market for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more—even fashion! Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.

BEYOND THE CLASSROOM:
Students from Ferris State University, the Culinary Institute of Michigan at Baker College in Muskegon, the Secchia Institute of Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University work alongside industry leaders for a premier educational experience.

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EarthKeeper Farm in the Fall

fall 2015Last autumn I visited the three-generation homestead of EarthKeeper Farm located ‘on the ridge’ near Grand Rapids. I’d met farmer Andrew Bostwick at the Fulton St. Farmers Market; I’ve been purchasing his produce for a couple of years. After writing a conventional apple blog series last year, I went to the farm to explore organic apple farming.

The farm is certified organic and biodynamic by the Stellar certification body. This is the second part of a two-part series. The first was posted last spring; it describes their growing and labor practices.

They grow 50 crops (280 varieties) including garlic, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, rutabaga, cabbage, broccoli, melons, onions, garden transplants, flowers and herbs. This fall they are selling produce at the Fulton St. Farmers Market in Grand Rapids. Over the winter, they often sell at Sweetwater Farmers Market in Muskegon. However, this year they are not planning on it. So, visit them at Fulton St. until Thanksgiving.

For the fall trip, I specifically went to learn about home cider making. They had a new hand press, and they and their neighbors, family, and friends used it on a regular basis during apple time. They don’t have a commercial space, so they cannot sell the cider. It’s too bad, because it’s has an amazing fresh taste. (Apple slices also dehydrate well and are such a treat over winter.)

Their apples are heirloom Jonathans, planted in 1940s. The cider tastes like an apple fresh from the tree – which of course, it is. It’s a pretty simple process. The apples are sorted, and the ones with no damage (normally about 20% since they are never sprayed with pesticides) are sold at the farmers market for general eating. The others are used as home apple sauce and cider.

Hand pressing apples is a pretty simple process – and a good ABS work out. After the apples are picked, sorted, and rinsed they are sent through a grinder that chops them up as they land into a bucket lined with a netted bag. The contents are divided by plastic screens to aid in the pressing process. Then the apples in the bucket are pressed by cranking down a round wooden board. Out drops the golden juice.

I’m totally spoiled with the fabulous fresh taste! This is too bad, because the hard winter damaged the trees, and so there were not enough apples to sell this year. They will be spending time this winter planning some additions to the orchard.

Visit them at Fulton St. Farmers Market until Thanksgiving. They are there on Saturdays from 8am to 3pm, and occasionally Fridays during peak season. Read my Spring post about the farm here.

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Pyle Dairy Farm

Ever wonder what a dairy cow on a small Michigan dairy farm does all day? I actually did wonder. I pay a lot of attention to how food animals are raised. Do you? I visited Pyle Dairy Farm as part of a day-long blogging tour organized by Promote Michigan. I suspect, as far as the dairy cow lifestyle goes, that this is as good as it gets. (Don’t assume that any other farm raised animals are treated like these cows. Do your research if you care about animal treatment!!)

When our travel bus arrived, the whole Pyle family was there to greet us. This Michigan Centennial Farm is run by the sixth generation. By the time of our mid-morning arrival, 130 cows had been milked. They are 100% registered Holsteins(R).

So, what’s the life of a Holstein dairy cow (and farmer) like? Well, in this case they hang out in a barn with a sand floor and giant fans on the ceiling. Cows get stressed at about 72 degrees, and the fans keep the temperature tolerable for them. There are shades on the sides of the structure to block heat or cold and for sun control.

Bred to produce way more milk than a calf could ever need, they are milked twice daily – at 4:00 am and 3:00 pm. The whole process, including clean-up, takes the farmers three hours. Twice daily, the cows also get fed, and the manure is removed from the barn.

The manure is stored with waste water from washing the milking parlor, and this is used twice per year to fertilize the fields. What’s in the fields? It’s hay and corn to feed the cows and a little wheat to use for straw bedding.

By two years of age, they are old enough to calve. The cows are artificially inseminated, which I was told they don’t seem to mind. When the calves are born, they are removed to another barn filled with other calves. Each newbie is in her own stall at first. They are fed their mother’s milk (by a farmer) for four days. (I was told by another farmer that they don’t feed directly, because they will feed from any cow and many cows, so they could spread diseases between the herd members.) The female calves are kept as future milking cows and the males are sold – often as beef.

After the initial four days, they are fed a milk replacer – much like human babies are often fed formula. After a few weeks some grain is added to their menu. At seven weeks old, they are ready to be with the other calves eating all grains.

The milker is electronic and each cow has a tag, so the amount of milk can be tracked to tell if they are running out of milk or potentially sick. There are NO bovine growth hormones used on these cows.

The milk gets filtered, pre-cooled, and bulk tanked. Off it goes to either Hudsonville Ice Cream or Leprino Cheese.

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July Staycation is Pure Michigan

The weather in the Grand Rapids area has been absolutely blissful lately as you can see if you are following my Instagram account. This weekend we were outside as much as possible. Here’s what we saw.

1 Reeds Lake

On Thursday afternoon we walked around Reeds Lake in E. Grand Rapids.

4 New Holland

Friday lunch was in Downtown Holland at New Holland Brewing Co. where I tried a drink with one of their spirits.

2 Blueberries at Blueberry Haven

Then, off to explore Grand Haven where we purchased the first MI blueberries of the season.

5 Victorian Kitchen in Museum

Did you know that there is a museum in downtown Grand Haven? It has this cute victorian kitchen.

4 Patricias Choc

Patricia’s Chocolate is opening a storefront in downtown Grand Haven soon!

4 Oddside Ales

A quick, shared taster at Oddside Ales.

3 12 Corners in Grd Haven

12 Corners has a new tasting room in the piano factory bld. in Grand Haven.

8 Ferrysburg beach

Always a beach stop – this is in Ferrysburg.

7 R C Tacos

Tacos for dinner at Righteous Cuisine in Grand Haven.

9 WP Trail

Saturday we took a bike ride on the White Pine Trail

10 maple almonds

Earlier, at the farmers market, I had picked up this maple almond snack for the ride.

11 Sweetlands in Rockford

There’s a Sweetland’s in downtown Rockford now! Dang, not open on the holiday.

12 Mangiamo

After Sunday brunch with family, we walked around the heritage areas of Grand Rapids looking at gardens. Mangiamo restaurant garden

13 Winchester

Winchester Restaurant Garden

14 Henry

Henry Ave. garden

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The Sovengard

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Can you picture a beer garden here? Rick Muschiana can. I met him when he was the assistant general manager at Brewery Vivant. Over the past few years, I’ve watched his career and his family, with wife Kelly, expand. Their current project is especially exciting.

The project: The Sovengard Biergarten and Kitchen. It’s a small restaurant and beer garden to be located in Grand Rapids’ near west side. They’ve selected a space between where New Holland and Harmony will be opening their second brewery locations. One of the main features will be an outdoor biergarten that will utilize repurposed shipping containers.

Muschiana has a rough translation of the name Sovengard, which originates from Danish and Norwegian words. “So” means lake, “ven” means friends and “gard” is a general term for a piece of land = “Land of the Lake Friends.”

Much of the funding is secured, and there was always an intention to include a crowd funding campaign to get the community involved early. View their Indiegogo page to see the cool gifts you can get for lending your support. Hurry! Because, the campaign ends June 30th.

During my visit, we spoke extensively about local food and sustainability. The Sovengard has a progressive company culture that’s a departure from the status quo in the restaurant industry and ties into their sustainability goals.

The menu will feature locally sourced food; they’re starting to talk to farmers and producers. The menu will include a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, since that’s a priority the Muschiana family. It will also include thoughtfully sourced animal products and fish in moderation. “It’s important to research the food source,” said Muschiana; “especially the animal products. Seasonal and humanely raised food are part of our developing sustainability mission.”

The food style will be loosely based on a Scandinavian food theme. The menu will change frequently, featuring everything from small plates to full entrees. The drink menu will largely focus on Michigan produced products. “However, we feel that honoring current producers who’ve been doing things the right way for a long time is also important, and therefore, we will have some high quality continental and European offerings too. Think: new school meets old school,” said Muschiana.

He continued, “Restaurants like Grove, Reserve, Terra GR, and Brewery Vivant cultivated the concept of great cuisine in Grand Rapids in the diner’s minds. We want to build on this and add this new cultural exposure.” Muschiana noted that our seasons here in Michigan are similar to Scandinavia and both areas are surrounded by water.

The Sovengard is scheduled to open later this year and will be designed to include greenspace, which the owners feel is an important element in the center of the city. For now, visit their social media pages:
Facebook
Indiegogo
Instagram
Twitter

A Gathering at Ganders

IMG_1543When you think of local food in Grand Rapids, which areas do you think you will find it? Uptown and Downtown? Well, yes BUT, take a look at the new Ganders Restaurant (named for Michigander!) in the DoubleTree hotel near the airport. They have a great Michigan menu filled with Michigan seasonal produce, dairy, beans, and meats, along with beer, wine, and spirits.

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. (Kitchen is open until 11:00 p.m.)
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. (Kitchen is open until 11:00 p.m.)
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

They also have private and semi-private spaces for groups. They recently hosted the West MI area bloggers for a complimentary dinner event. It was great to learn about other blogs over such delicious, locally sourced food. Give them a try!

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Although my dinner was provided by the restaurant, these opinions are my own.

The Nursery of Democracy: A Visit by Michael Pollan

Kalamazoo Community FoundationWhen I heard that journalist Michael Pollan was coming to speak in Kalamazoo, I immediately signed up. I’m a big fan of this writer – mostly because he’s a great researcher. He really goes in-depth into how our food system works (or doesn’t). He was brought here by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

His focus was on the act of cooking and what it means – the subject of his latest book, Cooked, now out in paperback. He stated that real cooking is a
Therapeutic act
Agricultural act
Political act.

There are too many food systems horror stories, and the one that he started out with this time was Russet Burbank potatoes. You’ve all eaten them – they’re what McDonald’s uses for their French fries. They’re long and grown to ‘look perfect.’

For this story, he visited a mega-farm that was fully automated. The ‘farmer’ had video cameras of the acreage of potatoes and worked the controls remotely for watering and pesticide application. They use the pesticide Monitor to prevent anything from marring the potatoes – even when the marks don’t affect potato quality or taste. When Monitor is applied, no one can enter the field for 3 – 4 days, because it’s so dangerous.

Pollan went on to describe the storage room full of harvested potatoes. They need to be held there for six weeks to off-gas the chemicals that had been applied during the growing process. I don’t know who decided that after six weeks, they’re ‘safe’ but, no thanks!

Now you see where he’s going with his thoughts on cooking. “Not cooking has to do with the kind of food system we have,” Pollan stated. When researching the book In Defense of Food he found that the healthiest diets were those cooked by humans, not corporations.

Research he mentioned indicates that people spend an average of 27 minutes cooking a meal, and 4 minutes cleaning up. Four minutes? I wish! Or, maybe not…. Opening up a spice pack or can of soup to add to pasta is not really cooking. “Americans spend more time watching people cook on TV than they actually do cooking,” said Pollan. “The family meal is an endangered institution. It’s where we civilize and socialize our children.”

Not only is processed food full of sugar, fat, and salt, but they often market individual meals which can undermine the family meal. So, when Pollan stated that the family meal is the nursery of democracy, was it farfetched? I don’t believe so.

You, readers, have much more control over the food system than you’ve been led to believe. You can change your health and the planet one meal at a time. What kind of food system do you want?

And, finally, Pollan noted, “The food movement offers farmers something that they haven’t had in a long time – new customers; new products; new markets.”

Go forth and cook!

LEARN TO EAT LOCAL

Kalamzoo Community Foundation

Q & A Time

Q & A Time (lighting not great for photography)

If you can’t find these books local, they are in my Amazon Affiliates store.

2014 Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival

Thursday through Sunday, is the 7th Annual Grand Rapids Wine, Beer, and Food Festival at DeVos Place in downtown. This is my favorite festival of the year. It features wine, beer, cider, and food with lots of tastings and classes throughout the event. It’s a great place to learn about Michigan food and beverages, as well as compare them to what’s produced in other regions.

Visit the festival website for information on the pairings and seminars. Along with the hall full of wineries (over 100), distilleries, and food, there’s the Cider House. It will feature cideries from throughout Michigan, as well as many nationally-known brands, in the Welsh Lobby on the south end of the Steelcase Ballroom.

The 3rd floor Brewer’s Loft returns, showcasing beer from around Michigan, as well as national labels and imports providing tastes of their hand-crafted beverages – along with food pairings and entertainment. And NEW this year is the RendezBREW, a rebranded, expanded Coffee, Cordials, and Dessert Café open in the Grand Gallery for the duration of the Festival.

My favorite area is the Riverfront Market where I shop for gourmet food, specialty items, wine accessories, and holiday gifts including chocolates, pastas, cheeses, oils, olives, sauces, mixes, dips and more. (Cash and carry or order for easy delivery.)

Here are my Festival Tips
• Bring a tote bag in case you pick up brochures or make food purchases.
• If you are crowd-averse go on Thursday or as early after opening as possible on Friday or Saturday.
• Get to the seminars several minutes early. Many of them fill to capacity.
• If you plan to eat or drink from several booths, buy extra food/beverage tickets. Last year food was 6 -12 tickets, wine was usually 3 – 6 tickets, and beer was usually 2 – 4 tickets. The show organizers suggest starting with $20.00 worth of tickets per person. They are sold in 50-cent denominations.
• There is so much to see some pre-planning may help set priorities.
• Check out the special events in advance so you go at the days and times when you will experience the events that interest you the most. Here’s the seminar and workshop schedule.
• Bring a camera and post your photographs to the MIlocalFoodbeet Facebook page. And, follow me on Instagram to see what’s going on! Prefer Twitter? Here I am.

COST: $15 – Thursday (and advanced ticket sales for Friday & Saturday); $20 – Friday & Saturday. 3-Day Pass – At $40, this option allows admission each day of the Festival and is intended for those who want to get the most out of their tasting experience. Online sales end Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5pm (Box Office sales for the pass end at 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 20).

I’ve been attending since the beginning and have served as media since 2010. Although my entrance pass is provided, I purchase all of my sampling tickets, and my opinions are my own. Attendance is only for those 21 and older.

See you there!

Grand Rapids Wine Beer and Food Festival

The Mother of Michigan Apple Production

Jack Brown Co-OpBack in 1960, five other apple growers joined with the Brown family to create Jack Brown Produce Co-Op. “Ma Brown” led the organization as founding president. She lead with honesty, integrity, innovation, and as the stories go – a bit of an iron fist. She was also the innovator for the concept of selling apples in three-pound plastic bags.

This was our third stop in the Michigan Apple Committee 2014 blogger tour. (See below for links to the earlier posts.) The co-op now has 45 grower shareholders with 75 total growers. President John Schaefer was our tour guide.

I was surprised to find what it takes to package apples! Our tour started in the long-term storage area. The chilly room we viewed holds 500 – 20 bushel bins. And, it’s one of the small rooms. In 1957, the Browns were the first to use cold storage technology which was developed in the 1940s and 50s.

The apples are held at optimal condition. We had to stand at the edge of the room to peer in, because we wouldn’t live long in the 1.5% oxygen air. It’s mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Every 15 minutes, the air is automatically sampled and adjusted as necessary.

Beyond storage, the facility packs apples either out of the storage rooms or right from the orchards. It’s a Just in Time process where as little as 24 hours goes by from orchard to grocery cart. The apples are sorted and graded – all apples are used. The small ones and seconds are used for juice, applesauce, or prepared slices. There are people and machines that check the apple exteriors and even a machine that checks for interior defects and water content.

The apples go through quite a process: they are washed and brushed, rinsed, and polished. Then, they are dried prior to the application of a palm oil based wax.

As if this wasn’t enough, Meijer wants them packaged in plastic bags, Kroger in mesh bags, and Costco in clamshells. Brown Co-Op does 750 types of packaging monthly, with each retailer and the USDA having various standards.

The facility runs year-round with full-time workers with benefits. In 2012 – the year that the blossoms froze so there were few apples to process – there was worry of a layoff. Instead, new processing lines were built by the workers, so they had jobs, and the co-op had skilled workers for the 2013 and 2014 bumper crops!

Click here for the first in this series (Sietsema Orchards).
Click here for the second in this series (Youngquist Farm).

NOTE: The MI Apple Committee sponsored this trip; however, all opinions are my own.

brown co op processing

Bagging apples at Jack Brown

Apples in Cold Storage - until we meet again

Apples in Cold Storage – until we meet again