A new kind of berry has found its way into Michigan grocery stores. These dark purple fruits are called saskatoons.
This commercial cultivar of the wild juneberry is pretty common in Canada, but it hasn't been grown by farmers in the U.S. until recently. Here, the berry, also sometimes called the serviceberry, has been collected in the wild for generations.
One farmer who has started growing them in Michigan isn't quite sure how to describe the taste.
Get this, 75% of the nation's tart cherries are grown in Michigan, most of that in the northwest Lower Peninsula.
But every year the industry that brings us cherry pies and the Traverse City Cherry Festival faces restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Ron French, the Senior Writer for Bridge Magazine, said because so many tart cherries are grown in such a small area, the weather can greatly affect the crop. So the USDA puts a limit on the percentage of Michigan's tart cherry crop that can be sold so prices don't swing too dramatically.
“The result of that is that in some years as much as one half or more in cherries produced in Michigan is left rotting on the ground,” French said.
Most growers favor restrictions, but one food processing company in Elk Rapids is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
French said Elk Rapids is hoping to remove the restrictions on cherries completely.
The nation’s tart cherry growers are on track to grow about as many tart cherries as they can sell this year. That’s good news for an industry that often grows too much fruit and sometimes restricts sales to keep supply in balance with demand.
Estimates for 2014 project growers producing about 260 million pounds of tart cherries. Most of that, about 180 million pounds, will come from Michigan.
The executive director of the Cherry Industry Administrative Board, Perry Hedin, says that’s an average to large crop.
Michigan took a big step forward in the business of fish farming this week. The state issued a permit allowing the Grayling Fish Hatchery to expand more than ten fold. It will be the largest fish hatchery in the state by far when it ramps up production. The hatchery raises trout for restaurants and grocery stores.
The expansion comes as interest in fish farming is growing nationwide. There is even talk of developing the aquaculture industry offshore in the open waters of the Great Lakes, something that has only been done in Canadian waters.