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Give thanks this season for Michigan farmers

by Candice Miller on October 30, 2014

By Candice Miller

http://www.macombdaily.com/opinion/20141024/give-thanks-this-season-for-michigan-farmers

Autumn is a time of celebration and thanks in America. Thanks for the spectacular beauty of our natural world and for the blessings of freedom and democracy.

Here in Michigan, we are sincerely grateful as well for the bountiful harvest that marks the end of another growing season. A harvest that powers a dynamic agricultural economy while providing all of us with the basic sustenance upon which life depends.

I’m proud to say that many of the most productive Michigan farms are right here in Macomb County and the Thumb. And on Friday, I’ll be visiting two of them – Blake’s Cider Mill in Armada and Crooked Creek Dairy Farm in Romeo – to get a firsthand look at how entrepreneurial agriculture is done.

As many of you know from experience, Blake’s Cider Mill is a longtime destination for families from Macomb County and beyond, and a real American success story.

In business since 1946, when it opened as one of the first U-pick apple orchards in Michigan, this family-owned operation has expanded over the years to more than 500 acres in three locations, two in Armada and another in Almont.

Today, Blake’s offers a panoply of locally grown produce (including strawberries, raspberries, peaches, pumpkins and assorted vegetables), and provides a range of seasonal entertainment, from hayrides and corn mazes to a Haunted House and Three Story Haunted Barn.

Its latest addition, Blake’s Hard Cider Co., is a brew pub and craft brewery which produces a variety of hard ciders from apples grown in the family orchards. In August, Blake’s Hard Cider was one of ten Michigan recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grants, netting $45,000 for assistance in production and marketing.

USDA’s value-added grants are aimed at aimed at strengthening local economies by expanding and enhancing the use of homegrown agricultural products, and Blake’s is a worthy recipient.

In Romeo, Greg and Dory Hill, the owners of Crooked Creek Dairy Farm, went into business more than 30 years ago for the most basic of reasons – they wanted better tasting milk.

They got it using skills Greg had gained as a youngster, pasteurizing their own without additives or preservatives, and, in 1981, installing a processor to market environmentally-friendly dairy products commercially.

Today, Crooked Creek milk and ice cream is distributed at outlets in SE Michigan and an on-site farm store, serving the needs of consumers seeking wholesome dairy products made without additives or fillers and in an environmentally sustainable way.

Throughout our area and across Michigan thousands of agricultural entrepreneurs like the Hills and Blakes are making a difference in our economy and our communities.

Agriculture is a $92 billion industry in Michigan, employing nearly a million of our fellow citizens and built on a foundation of farms which are 98 percent family-owned.

I know you will join me in giving thanks for the bounty it has produced – and for the people who make that bounty possible – Michigan farmers.

Candice Miller is the U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 10th congressional district.

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