Michigan Food & Agriculture

Max Johnston

The Bear Claw Cafe in Copemish is full of bears. Don’t worry, the bears are only decorative. But they are a part of a unique diner whose owner wants you to look at the animal differently.

Sam Corden

The Crystal Café in Benzonia has been a popular breakfast spot for 20 years. The café serves standard diner fare like corned beef hash, but also get creative – with dishes like Hawaiian omelets and bread pudding French toast.

"The Table of Knowledge" is a group of mostly old-timers who gather every morning at The Front Porch Cafe for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.
Dan Wanschura

It’s five o’clock in the morning on Main Street in Ellsworth, and it seems like most of the village is sleeping. It’s quiet and dark outside, but there is a light on outside The Front Porch Cafe.

Inside, Brenda Powers is getting ready for another day.


Sam Corden

Listeners have been recommending diners across northern Michigan, from Grand Marais to Beaver Island, during IPR’s series Order Up. IPR took the advice of one caller and visited Randy’s Diner in Traverse City – with him. 

Jack Alexander delivers a meal to Beverly Stevens at her home in Traverse City. Jack has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for two years.
Janine Weisman

It can be tough for homebound seniors to get nutritious meals. Meals on Wheels of Northwest Michigan distributes meals in the region to help those seniors remain in their homes. The service is operated by Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency.

Sam Corden

For the most part, Kritters is your typical local diner. They specialize in pulled pork sandwiches and generously sized hamburgers, and they’re a popular local breakfast spot.

But on Thursday nights, Kritters attracts bikers from all over northern Michigan.

Sam Corden

The new owners of a popular hangout in Baldwin are stepping into some very big shoes. Edie Mitchell, the previous long-time owner of Edie’s Log Bar, was a well-known character in town.

Sam Corden

The owners of Bob’s Country Kitchen in Irons know that when your diner is out in the middle of nowhere, making fresh food from scratch is key. But sometimes, the thing that keeps your customers coming back has nothing to do with the food at all.

Morgan Springer

In Traverse City’s East Bay, on the busy hotel strip on U.S. 31, is Don’s Drive In. The pink and turquoise restaurant is known for its burgers and shakes and the fact that it’s kind of old school.

Aaron Selbig

As you pull into Mancelona, the highway narrows, following alongside railroad tracks and past a couple of abandoned warehouses. And then, there it is – a red, white and blue chicken, the unofficial mascot of the Iron Skillet.

Nora Boydell

People who want backyard chickens in Michigan have the option to do it part-time through a business called Rent-A-Chicken. Leslie Suitor and her husband operate the business in Traverse City.

"I love telling kids that chickens are the closest living relative to the T-Rex," Suitor says, "and you can see the gears start turning and the kids [say], 'Well, oh my gosh, I’ve got a dinosaur in the backyard. This might be really cool after all.'"

Aaron Selbig

Most towns Up North have a local diner – a place everyone knows about, where you can get a simple meal and a strong cup of coffee at a reasonable price.

But diners are more than just a place to eat. You can see the history of a town slowly unfold over generations of conversations in a diner.

Mike Nygren, owner of the Iron Skillet in Mancelona, gets satisfaction out of that.

“To me, having a business in a small town is all about being part of the community,” says Nygren. “It’s not just about us making money; it’s about helping the community grow.”

State officials want hunters to shoot more deer in northeastern lower Michigan.

Infected deer in the area spread a disease called bovine tuberculosis. It can kill cows, and it can be passed to people through unpasteurized dairy products.

Raclette cheese wheels age in the cellar of Leelanau Cheese Company in Suttons Bay. The company was recently awarded a Super Gold award at the World Cheese Awards in Spain.
Dan Wanschura

Anne and John Hoyt own Leelanau Cheese Company in Suttons Bay. Leelanau Cheese is famous for it’s raclette.

“When people ask what it tastes like, I often say it’s between a gouda and a gruyere,” says Anne.

 

Garlic sits ready to be judged in advance of the Third Annual Crosshatch Garlic Auction.
Dan Wanschura

Michigan has a lot of festivals. There’s a tulip festival, a cherry festival, an apple festival, we even have an asparagus festival.

Recently, I came across a sort of garlic festival that happens in Elk Rapids. 

 


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.

Fruit growers cut their losses after hail storm

Jul 12, 2016
Nikki Rothwell

Last Friday’s hail storm left some fruit growers with severely damaged trees. Apples and cherries took a beating in parts of Leelanau and Antrim counties.

Nikki Rothwell, coordinator at Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center, visited orchards on Monday to assess the damage.

"The hail damage really made a lot of marks on the apples," Rothwell says. "So there’s a lot of bruising, but then I do see some areas where the flesh is actually torn."

John Larson is the owner of one of Traverse City's newest restaurants, Mama Lu's.
Dan Wanschura

When chef John Larson and his family moved from Chicago to Traverse City last spring, he soon realized that getting a table at a downtown restaurant was a bit difficult at times.

"There weren't enough restaurants," says Larson. "I noticed every single place was on a two-hour wait during the summer months."

That was good news for the entrepreneur from Chicago. 

Just over a year later, Mama Lu's is now open for business just in time for the busy summer months in Traverse City.

Peter Payette

Fruit growers have a new problem: they can’t buy enough young trees to plant in their orchards.

This is especially true for cherry farmers in Michigan who depend on nurseries in the Pacific Northwest. It could get worse, and some farmers are preparing for a day when they can’t buy any trees.

Ben LaCross was supposed to be planting 6,000 sweet cherry trees this spring at his farm near Maple City. He ordered the trees from a nursery in Oregon three years ago, but there was some unusual weather there that fall.

Peter Payette

Mark Baker announced in December he was selling his farm. But now he says he has a new plan: he wants to help other military veterans take up farming.

 

Black Star Farms

Don Coe helped commercialize northern Michigan’s wine industry. He founded Black Star Farms near Suttons Bay 17 years ago.

Coe retired last month and turned Black Star Farms over to his business partner, Kerm Campbell.

In 2005, Coe led a legal fight to give wineries the right to ship their products directly across state lines. The Supreme Court upheld that right in a 5-4 decision.

Coe says Michigan’s wine industry has matured over the last 17 years and he sees more growth on the horizon as a new generation of winemakers takes over.

Food inspectors used a warrant signed by a judge to visit a farm near Cadillac last week. State police troopers were also on hand for the inspection of Bakers Green Acres last Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Jennifer Holton, called the inspection “routine.”

But the farmer, Mark Baker, characterized it on his YouTube channel as a “raid.”

“They pulled in like it was a raid,” he says. “Like we were going to run the other way or flush drugs down the toilet.”

Wine grape harvest may be at all-time low this year

Sep 30, 2015
Peter Payette

It’s harvest time for wine grapes. But after one of the worst growing seasons in northern Michigan, there aren’t many grapes to make into wine.

Duke Elsner, the small fruit educator for Michigan State University extension, says, "It’s really the worst season we’ve ever seen since the mid-70’s when they started growing wine grapes in northern Michigan."

He says the extreme cold winter wiped out about 50 percent of the grape buds. Then roughly 50 percent of remaining buds were damaged in a late spring frost in May.

Honeycrisp harvest is underway in Michigan.

The many fans of Honeycrisp apples will be happy to learn that all signs point to a fine crop this year.

But that good news presents new challenges for Michigan growers.

Nova Stubbs

There are 109 people certified to sell wild mushrooms in Michigan this year. That’s after the state offered classes for foragers to get certified to sell.

Chris Wright, executive director of Midwest American Mycological Information, offers the certification classes. He says the classes have leveled the playing field. Before they became available in the past year, it wasn't clear how foragers could meet state certification requirements. So a lot of them didn't.

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