Category Archives: Agriculture

Fishtown: A Town Within A Town

IIMG_0860t’s considered one of the gems of northern Michigan: the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s home to some of the state’s best agricultural destinations, including vineyards and orchards… as well as some of the most beautiful landscapes in the midwest.
Leland is situated right between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau, on the western edge of the Leelanau Peninsula. The quaint little community certainly isn’t northern Michigan’s largest, yet it is still big enough to host a town within a town… a hidden town, if you will.IMG_0821

Fishtown traces its roots back well over 100 years. It is home to one of the few commercial fisheries left on the Great Lakes and in recent years, it has become a destination for visitors from all around the globe.

It has also been run by a non-profit since 2007.IMG_0834

Amanda Holmes, Executive Director of the Fishtown Preservation Society, said that in 2006 the former owners of Fishtown, the Carlson Family, decided to sell. But the Carlson’s wanted to ensure that the tiny town-within-a-town was preserved for future generations.

So the Fishtown Preservation Society jumped at the opportunity.

“The whole energy of the organization was to saving Fishtown and raising the purchase price, because if we weren’t going to raise the money, what was gonna happen?” Holmes also said the IMG_0831society ended up purchasing just over a quarter acre of land for $2.7 million.

Today in Fishtown, visitors can step back in time and experience the past first hand.

Holmes said the old shanties can help serve as a reminder of the past of Fishtown.

Part of Amanda Holme’s job is to preserve not only Fishtown… but also the memories of those who have worked and been there.

IMG_0825Sometimes it’s getting people telling their story for the first time, because everybody harbors different memories and a different way of thinking and preserving a place” says Amanda, who over the years has interviewed more than 80 people, documenting and preserving their experiences with Fishtown.

Keith Burnham, a past board member of the society, has lived in Leland for 55 years and runs a daily blog about Leland and Fishtown, called The Leland Report.

His partner in crime is his dog Biscuit. The two of them visit Fishtown daily to snap a daily photo for The Leland Report.

Burnham says Biscuit gets fish sausage at one of the shops every morning.

“What’s my favorite part of Fishtown? Fishtown, I mean the whole thing” said Burnham.

Every turn in Fishtown has something new to see, something to smell, and something to purchase. The area is dotted with fashionable shops, unique groceries, and even Leland’s
oldest art gallery.

Holmes says there’s even a waiting list for people to be in the buildings.

The Preservation Society has now shifted their attention to the future of Fishtown, and a lot of that involves fundraising, events and individual donations.

Holmes says there are mortgage payments to be made, repairs to be done and history to be preserved. But she says protecting this area is crucial to Leland’s future.

MI offers assistance given to businesses serving healthy food


Help is now available for groceries and other vendors wanting to offer more fresh, healthy food to their customers.

The Michigan Good Food Fund is a public private partnership, offering loans and grants to businesses in communities where fresh food is not widely available. Continue reading

Hunting of antlerless deer restricted during upcoming archery season


Antlerless deer cannot be hunted during the archery season in the Upper Peninsula this year, under an order from the state Natural Resources Commission.

Declining numbers of deer are to blame for the restriction. Two harsh winters in two years are to blame. Continue reading

Democratic lawmakers eye bill to keep water flowing to Highland Park

bottled water

A group of state House Democrats hopes to prevent the state’s largest water utility from ending service to one of the cities it serves. Continue reading

Court of Appeals upholds state ban on wild boar

Wild boar in Michigan

Wild boar in Michigan

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s ban on Russian boar and other breeds of exotic swine.

Michigan banned several strains of boar as invasive species because they breed prolifically, endanger other wildlife, and ruin woods and farmland. Continue reading

Michigan’s thumb gets rural energy funding boost

An 80 year old program that’s dedicated to funding rural energy cooperatives is sending 25 million dollars to Michigan’s Thumb.

Every year the USDA parcels out loans to energy cooperatives in order to strengthen rural infrastructure.

This year the USDA is giving out roughly $100 million. A quarter of that money is going to the Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan.

The Coop’s General Manager Dallas Braun says the money will help them implement a new monitoring system.

“Currently our members read their own meters every month, submit a reading to us and then we bill them based on the reading. So the AMI system or the Smart Grid system will allow us to become more efficient and save a lot of money.”

Braun says one of the big advantages of a coop is that the money they save goes back to their members.

Curbing CAFO antibiotic use

This is where Carey sends his cows that are either sick or injured.

This is where Carey sends his cows that are either sick or injured.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO, create countless pounds of manure daily.

This refuse, or rather what’s in it, is becoming a hotly contested issue between scientists and CAFO supporters. Continue reading

Can CAFO’s keep up with regulations?

Matt Carey standing next to his MAEPE Certification

Matt Carey standing next to his MAEPE Certification

Michigan’s lower peninsula is home to more than two-hundred CAFO’s – or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Opponents call them factory farms. They keep food prices down, but at what cost.

Matt Carey is the owner of Carey’s Pioneer Farms, the farmstead has been in Matt’s family for three generations and he said passing it on isn’t necessarily going to be easy.

“Like I said, it’s real important for us that we grow an operation that our kids might want to take over. It’s something you have to have a passion for though. You don’t just do it because your Dad wants you to or whatever. You have to have a passion to do it, ‘cus it’s a lot of work and sweat, and a lot of hours you don’t plan on workin’.”

Carey also said it’s a lot of money you don’t plan on spending. His farm is subject to regulations from the state and federal level. Many of the regulations are meant to keep byproducts of the farm away from clean water.

The byproducts could be anything from excess nutrient runoff, to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Carey's $200,000 manure storage facility

Carey’s $200,000 manure storage facility

Carey said the renovations to keep his farm up to regulation are costly, and they take a long time to yield positive results. Carey tried to justify a long time manure storage facility he said they needed just to stay open.

“That’s one of the most expensive projects I’ve ever spent in my life for somethin’ like that. There’s over 200-thousand in engineering costs and cement, just to store manure in. When you take that much money and put it into a manure storage what is the payback for that? There is a payback for that, but it’s not that much. Not compared to what was just thrown into it.”

Although costly for farmers, some believe the regulations in place are not enough to protect Michigan’s environment, or it’s residents.

Dr. Murray Borello is a scientist at Alma College, he said CAFO’s are not a sustainable future for Michigan agriculture.

“We’re not doing anything cutting edge. In fact, the scientific community is like ‘Yea okay we know this, it’s just one more piece of data, one more study that shows what hundreds of studies are already showing.’ The environment is impaired as a result of inadequacy of these regulations to protect the environment.”

In a study conducted by Borello in 2008, he found CAFO’s that operated within regulations still violated Michigan water quality laws. Therefore, he said, even if the farms were up to snuff, they were still a detriment to the environment.

Not everyone is convinced by Borello’s work however. Laura Campbell is the manager of the Agricultural Ecology Department at the Michigan Farm Bureau. She said more rigorous testing needs to be done before she buys into what Borello believes.

“I, yes, I have read his work. And have actually had several conversations with Mr. Borello. Uhm, having read his research I don’t think that his answers are definitive. Uhm, thats not to say that, ya know, I’m trying, that I would absolutely deny his findings. But I think that his findings are inconclusive from what he claims the result from them is.”

Borello said getting farms to take part in studies is extremely difficult. That makes the science behind the issue slow-going.

A group of cattle on Carey's  farm

A group of cattle on Carey’s farm

“I have tried to work with CAFO’s. I think we could get a great study on how to make these things more sustainable, I would love to work towards that. I’m not here to bash anybody, I wanna make the situation better. And you can’t do that when you’re fighting, you can only do it when you collaborate.”

As Borello says, the problem lies in the disconnect between farmer, and scientist.

Matt Carey attempted to get to the heart of the problem when he said,

“My whole problem is, I just wanna farm. Ya know, I don’t wanna have to do all this extra, we were doing all this extra stuff. We just weren’t documenting it before we were forced to document it. Ya know, we were doing, we’ve been doing soil testing since 1990, so it’s been a crucial part of our operation and the cash crop to be soil tested. Now they just say it’s gotta be done every three years which we already always done.”

Farmers like Carey want to create CAFO’s that are sustainable, and can be passed on to the next generation. In order to do that they have to comply with a litany of regulations.

Scientists like Borello want to ensure the regulations are stringent enough to protect Michigan’s waterways.

These goals are not mutually exclusive, and working together could shorten the journey to their solution.

Service project aims to “eat away” at invasive species

Volunteers are needed for a series of hunts in northwest lower Michigan, that are meant to curb the spread of an invasive plant species.

The volunteer hunters will be searching for Garlic Mustard. A species that can quickly crowd out native plants. Continue reading

Alpena County dairy herd tests postive for Bovine TB


Routine screening for Bovine Tuberculosis conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has found serveral cases in Michigan. Continue reading

USDA grants $1.4 million to protect and restore wetland and agricultural lands

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is using a $1.4 million grant from the federal government for two land easement programs in the state.

The programs focus is on keeping wetlands and agricultural lands precisely that: wetlands and agricultural lands. Continue reading