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Michigan small farm meeting endorses diversity, efficiency
By BRETT McKAY
Michigan Correspondent

GRAYLING, Mich. — Although harvest season in northern Michigan is in hibernation, plans for this year’s planting were sprouting during the seventh annual Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference.

The event, which was sponsored by Michigan State University (MSU), was at the Grayling High School and featured guest speakers who shared their expertise on many farming-related subjects, workshops and venders.

MSU’s goal is to promote project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs). The GREEEN project, which was created in 1977, works to protect and increase Michigan’s agricultural productivity.

The state’s farmers produce $55 billion in revenue for Michigan’s economy. The GREEEN project also wants to make sure that the agricultural products that reach consumers are safe while protecting the environment.

Several booths were set up demonstrating the damage insects can do to our natural resources. The Crawford-Roscommon Conservation District’s Lucille Eisbrenner displayed a dissected piece of Ash Tree that had been damaged by Emerald Ash Borers.

“The insect is hard to detect due to the fact that they exit from the top of the tree where people can’t see the exit hole,” she said. It bores throughout the tree depriving it of nutrients and eventually killing it.

The conference encouraged growers to meet other growers and make connections with distributors. Larry Hasselman of Freemont said he attended the conference “to see how we can make contact with buyers and market our own honey.”

Steve-N-Sons Grassfields farm was on hand promoting their healthier brand of cheeses. Owned by the Meermans since 1882, they use a method called Manage-ment-Intensive Rotational Grazing, which produces the healthiest types of feed grass for their cows. This way their animals are free of hormones, antibiotics and steroids, creating a better cheese. Meat obtained from these cows is also lower in saturated fat and higher in the healthy fat called Omega-3 fatty acids.

Organizers said the Michigan Small Farm Conference is a vital tool in helping one of the most diverse agricultural states in North America, which produces more than 200 farm commodities.

This farm news was published in the February 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.

2/1/2006