agriculture

Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, hear how Michigan hops farmers are struggling to keep up with the craft beer boom. Plus, a look ahead on the future of the Traverse City Pit Spitters baseball team.

Five years ago hops were in high demand in Michigan, so farmers started experimenting with the crop. However, as beer tastes changed and breweries went looking for the next new thing, many northern Michigan hop farmers have been unable to make ends meet.

Peter Payette / I

Fruit growers in northern Michigan are having a tough time with all the rain this year, because that moisture helps fungus and bacteria thrive.

Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

Fruit growers in northern Michigan are battling crop diseases this summer caused by heavy rain and humidity.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

U.S. cherry farmers filed a legal case against the country of Turkey on Tuesday. They say Turkey subsidizes their cherries so much that they can sell some products for half the price of domestic ones.

Peter Payette

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy $15 million of tart cherries from domestic farmers, according to Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet.)

The smooth, rosy trunk of a cherry tree is marked with big, oozing dead areas, called cankers.
George Sundin / Michigan State University

Bacterial canker is a devastating tree disease that affects sweet cherry orchards around the country. There is currently no good way to treat it, but some Michigan scientists are trying to harness bacteria-killing viruses to control it.

Today on Stateside, we talk with a Southfield rabbi about the recent attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 congregants dead. Plus, a conversation with a leading expert on sexual assault prevention who is working to help Michigan State University better respond to sexual violence on campus following the Larry Nassar abuse scandal.

Today on Stateside, we hear from a Michigan soybean farmer on how President Trump's escalating trade war with China is projected to affect the state's agriculture producers. Plus, Stateside's education commentator Matinga Ragatz weighs in on the teacher shortage crisis facing Michigan schools. 

 

If you just focus on the craft brews and the wines made in Michigan, then you're missing a growing part of the Michigan beverage scene  cider.

Cider Week GR is happening now to May 19 in Grand Rapids. The city is also hosting the annual Great Lakes Cider and Perry Competition – the largest competition of its kind in the world, says Paul Vander Heide.

Aaron Selbig

A group in Antrim County has been working for more than a decade to connect a bike trail between Suttons Bay and Harbor Springs. But now, a northern Michigan legislator says the path could harm the agriculture industry.

Last week, Representative Triston Cole of Mancelona took a road trip along the section that would extend Traverse City’s TART Trail north along U.S. Highway 31 to Elk Rapids. He brought with him Representative Tom Barrett – the chair of the House Agriculture Committee – and they heard from local farmers.

Jandy Sprouse tends to one of the Tibetan yaks that she raises at her ranch in Maple City. Jandy and her husband Brad are part of a growing local fiber movement, where customers are looking for locally made textiles for their clothing.
Matt Mikus

Jandy and Brad Spouse raise yaks on their ranch in Maple City. The yaks are a little smaller than a dairy cow, but they don’t look like one.

"They have a long fiber that comes down, and it looks like a skirt,” explains Brad. “They have a very long tail that’s similar to a horse." 

 



   

Michigan fruit growers are nearing a crucial time of the year: harvest season. But those farmers are struggling to find enough labor to fill their needs.

People are no longer turning up at the farm looking for work, said Rob Steffens, owner of Steffens Orchard in Sparta, just north of Grand Rapids. Steffens needs more than 40 workers each year for his 280-acre orchard. He’s on track to have enough this year, but he says some workers have told him they aren’t returning.

USDA warns about the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle

Aug 29, 2017
ANGELICA A. MORRISON

The US Department of Agriculture is asking residents along the Great Lakes corridor and beyond to watch out for an invader- the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB).At the North Tonawanda Audubon Nature Preserve, located north of Buffalo, environmental workers and volunteers hung black and white warning signs about the bug.

The state’s numbers say the food and agriculture industry brings more than $101 billion into the state’s economy every year.

But Molly Stepanski of Presque Isle Farm said there’s a “huge transition” happening right now in the agriculture industry.

As older farmers begin to age out of the profession, Molly said tens of thousands of acres are “getting ready to transition hands.”

It’s an ancient way of life under 21st century economic pressures.

According to the state’s numbers, the food and agriculture industry pumps $101 billion into Michigan’s economy each year. It employs some 923,000 people. That’s nearly a quarter of Michigan’s workforce.

So, what does the next generation of farmers think about the future of agriculture in our state?

The Montmorency tart cherry is pretty much the only sour cherry grown in the U.S. And cherry growers in Michigan know the tree really well. It was brought here from France a couple of hundred years ago. "This is older than most people think of as heirloom varieties and it's our main variety to this day," says Jim Nugent, a cherry grower in northern Michigan.

 

Trade agreements have been a big topic of discussion this election year.

President Obama has been pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The majority party presidential candidates are both opposed to it. The North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has also seen a lot of criticism.

Last week, the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan released a letter in support of those trade agreements and others.

Michigan’s local food movement has brought heirloom plants back into the spotlight, making for the perfect time to bring back a century-old barley strain.

Developed in 1916 by an MSU professor, “Spartan” barley is now making a comeback with the help of a team of the school's researchers.

NORTHWEST MICHIGAN HORTICULTURE RESEARCH CENTER

The tart cherry harvest has begun in northern Michigan. The cherry crop is large this year, but growers are dealing with rising numbers of spotted wing drosophila as they harvest.

Drosophila is a tiny insect that originally came from Asia. The bugs have found a home in Michigan in recent years, and their numbers have been growing.

Nikki Rothwell is coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center. She’s been studying spotted wing drosophila.

Jim Nugent says growers are spraying a lot more this year.

From ethanol made with corn to diesel fuel made from soy beans, the agriculture industry loves biofuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency is also pushing biofuels. They're seen as cleaner burning, and burning the fuels creates less of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change than do fossil fuels such as oil. 

All good, right?

Well, it turns out those claims might be hyped a bit.