I have lived in Michigan all of my life (well, except for the 4 years I spent in the Marines). During my lifetime I have seen the economy (once strong in manufacturing) slowly changing, falling into what once made the state great. It seems odd to say it like this, but when you really think about it if you were to ask most people what is from Michigan twenty years ago or so, they would tell you cars.
Detroit may be the motor city but for a long time quite a few other citys in the Mitten supplemented the auto industry. I spent close to 10 years after I was released from active duty working for the declining auto industry. For many in the state the auto industry and manufacturing has been much of what their life has been about. Just as most see Michigan as the home of the auto industry, those who have grown up here tend to have pushed to the back of their mind the strong agricultural roots of the state.
Dianna Stampfler from Promote Michigan hosted a talk at the Kalamazoo Public Library to remind us that Michigan is more than just the auto industry. (side note: You might notice the name Vernors in all these logos and wonder what that might be. Vernors is ginger ale, everyone in Michigan knows that, but you won’t see it outside the state… its worth the trip just for that)
Of course the most important agriculture information for most of us here is brew culture. Michigan is ranked 5th in the nation for breweries (the Great Beer State). And to support that a secondary agricultural industry of hop farms and barley growers is gaining ground. But we talk about this stuff all the time…
Here come some tidbits that could be new and unusual…
Portage Michigan was where the celery industry was born for the nation. Doesn’t seem like much until you realize the importance of celery in classical french cooking. Celery is an important aromatic used with carrots and onions in almost every aspect of classical cooking technique.
Michigan’s first peach tree as planted in the 1780s by William Burnett. Most people think of Georgia, but Michigan is ranked #3 in peach production.
Michigan harvests roughly 17% of the nations total sweet cherry crop annually. Coming from 15,700 acres, thats a whole lotta cherries.
I learned a long time ago that those who live in the Upper Peninsula refer to those of us from the lower peninsula as apple knockers. Considering there are roughly 37,000 acres of apple trees I can understand why. (mind you they also call us trolls cause we live under the bridge, but thats a different story)
In the end there was some good info to be had, my synopsis here only briefly touches on it all. Times, they are a changing. As we strive for local sourcing and sustainability it becomes even more important to know where your food comes from. A peach from a farm 10 miles away tastes so much sweeter than one several hundred and more miles away.
With that, its time for a pint…