Michigan Food & Agriculture

When we did our egg taste test back in April, comparing chicken, quail, duck and goose, I confessed to how partial I've become to duck eggs. Ever since I tasted them at Abounding Harvest Mountain Farm in Los Gatos, Calif., in March, I've been extolling their custardy texture and flavor to anyone who will listen.

File photo.

Climate change is making Michigan farmers more vulnerable to dramatic weather shifts, according to a report released this morning by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It claims climate change is no longer a future threat, but a reality now.


A state agriculture commission has adopted a new rule on livestock in residential areas. It gives local governments more authority to ban or regulate raising farm animals in backyards.

File photo.

Governor Rick Snyder says Michigan needs to do more to attract seasonal migrant laborers to work on farms this spring and summer.

Last year, Michigan asparagus farmers lost about 2 million pounds – or 10 percent of their crop – because they didn’t have enough workers. Michigan competes with Texas and California for farm labor, and Governor Snyder says there are already concerns that Michigan won’t be able to lure enough agriculture labor this year.

Tom Carr

Warm days and cool nights have the sap running steadily through a web of plastic tubes into Joe Woods' sugar shack in Rapid City.

But the cold winter started things about three weeks late for Woods and other commercial syrup makers in the area.

So far, Woods has produced about 400 gallons, which is about half of an ideal year.

He thinks he may be able to get one more week of good sap.

Devastating Disease Found In Michigan Bats

Apr 10, 2014

A disease devastating bats throughout the American northeast has now spread to Michigan. White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in three Michigan counties: Alpena, Mackinac and Dickinson. 

Bats play a critical role for farms and forests by eating insects, lots of them.

“Bats in Michigan had an economic benefit of $528 million to $1.2 billion dollars for farmers,” says Bill Scullon, the statewide bat program coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

With winter finally behind us, hopefully fruit farmers all over Michigan are getting an idea of what the snow, ice and cold has done to orchards, vineyards and fields.

Knowing that the early spring warm-up of 2012 was devastating to most of Michigan's fruit-growers, we wondered if the rough winter has them just as worried now as they were two years ago.

Ken Nye of the Michigan Farm Bureau joined us.

Listen to the full interview above.

The first farm crop to be harvested in Michigan is ready. 

Michigan ranks number five in maple syrup production each year, and according to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, that sweet syrup helps pump nearly $2.5 million into Michigan's economy each year.

But there are plenty of maple trees in Michigan that are not being tapped. So we wondered, if we have all these trees, why aren't more people making maple syrup?

Michael Farrell's book is called The Sugar Makers Companion: An Integrated Approach to Producing Syrup from Maple, Birch, and Walnut Trees.

Farrell joins us today.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Voting concludes today for tart cherry growers deciding whether they want a controlled market for their fruit. The votes will be counted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For the first time in decades, there appears to be some chance growers could end the complex restrictions on the sale of tart cherries and choose a free and open market instead.

The current marketing order allows an industry board to limit the sale of tart cherries to keep prices stable. Some growers have complained about having to destroy fruit, especially in 2009 when the cherry crop was enormous.

2014 Cherry Fest Will Not Have Smoking Sections

Mar 26, 2014
Jeremy Sorrells / Flickr

This year’s Cherry Festival in Traverse City will be missing one thing: a smoking section. Smoking corrals will be eliminated from the Open Space in Clinch Park on West Grand Traverse Bay.

The city refused to allow smoking this year. In previous years, the event has been given an exemption from the no smoking rule for the Open Space.

Trevor Tkach, executive director of the National Cherry Festival, says it’s a positive move.

Peter Payette

A circuit court judge in the Upper Peninsula says Michigan’s ban on wild hogs is unconstitutional. Judge Thomas Solka says there is no way for hog farmers to know whether the pigs they own violate the rule set up by the Department of Natural Resources.

Friday’s ruling is the first substantial opinion in a set of cases that sprang from a rule the DNR made in 2010. It declared certain breeds of pigs an invasive species.

This winter has been especially tough for the already-fragile population of Michigan honeybees.

Beekeepers are coping with a nearly decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins. It's called "colony collapse disorder".

Now comes the unrelenting cold of this record-setting winter, and beekeepers in Michigan and other states are reporting staggering losses that could endanger crop production all over the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it's spending $3 million on a new program to help honeybees. 

Let's find out why this is so crucial and what it means for Michigan's farmers and beekeepers.

Mike Hansen is the State Apiarist with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

USDA To Spend $3M To Help Honeybees

Feb 27, 2014
Candice Ludlow / IPR News

The federal government will spend $3 million dollars to help improve the health of honeybees.

Honeybees have been suddenly disappearing or dying in the last several years, known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Habitat loss and pesticide use have contributed to the declining population. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering interested farmers and ranchers assistance to implement cover crops that honeybees feed on, like alfalfa and clover.

Tom Carr

A judge ruled yesterday that a McBain farmer does not have to pay $700,000 for keeping a banned breed of hog.

But he and other farmers, some who packed the courtroom, worry it could happen again. That's because the decision did not address whether a Michigan invasive species law is fair or not.

Why Farm Russian Boar?

Mark Baker says he had good business reasons to start inter-breeding Russian boar with the pigs on his farm.

State Plans To Drop Fines Against Pig Farmer

Feb 26, 2014
Peter Payette

The state of Michigan plans to drop hefty fines against a McBain farmer for raising a prohibited species of hogs.

The farmer, on the other hand, says he prefers to keep the fight going.

Mark Baker slaughtered the last of his Russian boar-hybrid pigs in November.

Now, the state plans to drop a lawsuit against him carrying up to $700,000 dollars in penalties.

The Department of Natural Resources was concerned the pigs could add to a wild hog population if they broke out of their pens.

Dave Fulmer / Flickr

An Antrim County farmer, James Ruster, was sentenced last week for a felony violation of Michigan’s Food Law. It’s the first-ever felony conviction under this law.

The owner of Mitchell Hill Farm pled guilty to willful misbranding and adulteration of food products. He was sentenced to 14 months to four years in prison for producing and selling apple cider that caused an E. coli outbreak.

Jennifer Holton, director of communications for the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, says safety is the priority.

The face of farming in America, and here in Michigan, is changing.

More and more often, that farmer raising crops or tending to a dairy herd is a woman.

As women move from a supporting role to a starring role on Michigan farms, how is this changing agriculture?

Sue Raker is the owner and operator of Cloverland Apiary and Farm on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.

And Wynne Wright is a professor in community sustainability and sociology at Michigan State University. They both joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Collard Greens and Pear Slaw

Feb 24, 2014
Recipe and image appear with special permission by Kristin Celeste Shroeger © 2014

 Ingredient List 

The campaign to raise Michigan’s minimum wage will now begin collecting signatures.

A state panel gave the petition campaign the OK to go ahead. The Board of State Canvassers said the petition complies with the law, and now the campaign has until mid-May to collect 258 thousand valid signatures. That would put the question to the Legislature. If lawmakers don’t adopt it, then it would go on the November ballot.

Onion, Potato and Porter Soup

Feb 17, 2014

Ingredient List 

  • *Red onions
  • *White onions
  • *Olive oil
  • *Red potatoes
  • *Thyme
  • *Porter
  • *Dried bay leaves
  • *White cheddar cheese
  • *Chives
  • Mediterranean cyprus white flake salt

*Farm fresh or local sourced artisan product

Life could soon get a little harder for backyard farmers.

A law passed in 1981 protects Michigan farmers from nuisance lawsuits. It’s called the Right to Farm Act.  It was created to protect farmers from angry neighbors who were moving out into rural areas from cities.

At the moment, the law also protects people who raise chickens and other animals in their backyards.

Wendy Banka lives in Ann Arbor.  She has seven chickens with orange feathers living in a coop in her backyard.

Liam Wierzba

Heavy snowfall has created a unique tasting tour through Northern Michigan’s wine country. The vineyard-to-vineyard ski and snowshoe trail connects Bluestone Vineyards, Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery and Tandem Ciders.

Suttons Bay Bikes rents equipment for the tours, and owner Nick Wierzba says the idea sprung from their winery bike tours in the summertime. He thinks skiing along vineyards is a new trend.

Top Loin Steak with Blackberry Riesling Reduction

Feb 10, 2014
Recipe and image appear with special permission by Kristin Celeste Shroeger © 2014

Ingredient List 

  • Top loin steaks
  • *Shallots
  • *Rosemary
  • *Pea shoots
  • *Baby spinach
  • *Tuscan herb olive oil
  • *Dry Riesling 
  • *Verjus 
  • *Blackberry Shiraz preserves
  • Blackberries

*Farm fresh or local sourced artisan product

Recipe Directions

Remove steaks from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for thirty minutes.  

Bacon and Fromage Blanc Scrambled Egg Croissant

Feb 3, 2014
Image Credit: Recipe and image appear with special permission by Kristin Celeste Shroeger © 2014


  • *Olive oil
  • *Local eggs
  • *Fromage blanc
  • *Croissant
  • *Green bor kale
  • *Baby red onion
  • *Bacon, cooked

*Farm fresh or local sourced artisan product

Recipe Directions

Heat one teaspoon olive oil in a medium metal skillet. Per croissant, add two eggs and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until eggs are almost set. Remove skillet from heat and stir in one tablespoon fromage blanc per two eggs. Let eggs rest for two minutes.

Pea Shoot Salad

Jan 27, 2014
Recipe and image appear with special permission by Kristin Celeste Shroeger © 2014

Ingredient List 

  • *Turnip
  • *Celeriac root
  • *Apple
  • *Red onion
  • Lemon 
  • Homemade green onion infused olive oil  
  • *Baby pea shoots
  • *Raw pumpkin seeds
  • *Cherry honey mustard 
  • *Wild leek vinegar
  • *Verjus

*Farm fresh or local sourced artisan product