Even in winter, Meridian Township Farmers’ Market buzzing with sales

By Ally Hamzey
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter

On an unusually sunny, warm day in mid-February, the Meridian Township Farmers’ Market inside the Meridian Mall could have comfortably taken place its usual outdoor location. The pleasant weather, however, did not stop many shoppers from stopping in the mall to partake in the Winter Farmers’ Market Feb. 20. The Meridian Township Farmers’ Market has been around for over 40 years and is offered throughout all four seasons annually. In the other three seasons, the market takes place at the Central Park Pavilion on Marsh Road.

Michigan farmers struggle to fill seasonal jobs

By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN
Capital News Service
LANSING — The fall farming season in West Michigan has ended, but the future need for migrant workers remains. The Michigan Farm Bureau said migrant workers fill about 40,000 seasonal jobs on fruit and vegetable farms but the number is decreasing. Migrant workers are starting to see education and a permanent job as necessary, leading them away from temporary jobs that depend on time and place, Craig Anderson, manager of agricultural labor and safety services at the Farm Bureau said. “When you look at the jobs that agriculture has available, they’re unfortunately based on climates. Those three-to-six-week jobs are the types we are having a very difficult time filling,” Anderson said.

Programs for beginning farmers on the rise

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service
LANSING — On average, the state’s farmers are 56 years old, according to Michigan Farm Bureau. But an interest in local and organic food might yield a younger, fresher crop of farmers. “It has a lot to do with people being awakened to the issue that the food system is broken and there are a lot of opportunities to fix it and also make a living,” said Lindsey Scalera, the Canton-based co-chair of the Michigan Young Farmers Coalition. “It’s tough. People’s farms do fail.

Farm acreage up, climate change partly responsible

LANSING – More crops were planted in the northern Midwest this year than last year, including Michigan, according to a federal report. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report says Michigan farmers planted 300,000 more acres of principal crops in 2014 compared to 2013. One reason may be that warmer temperatures are allowing for a longer growing season, said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri- Business Association. With frost starting later in the year, crops have more time to mature, he said. And higher temperatures are prompting crop production to expand northward.

Area farmers still optimistic about summer crops

By Ethan Merrill
Holt Journal staff writer

After one of the most persistent winters that anybody can recall, farmers in the Holt area are not curtailing expectations for their summer crops just yet. The middle of April typically marks the time of year for farmers to begin planting corn in Michigan. However, the unusually cold weather of the past few months is delaying those plans. “Some crops are definitely going to be harvested later than the past few years,” said Farm Bureau agent Dennis Greenman. “Corn and soybean harvests are going to be late if the ground doesn’t warm up soon.

Road restrictions hamper farmers this spring

By NICK STANEK
Capital News Service
LANSING — The farming industry feels the lingering effects of the polar vortex in some parts of the state as cold temperatures continue into spring. County governments implement seasonal weight restrictions on roads every year to reduce the impact heavy trucks can have on roads. “By law, road agencies can enact weight restrictions on roads that are not designated as all-season routes when conditions merit,” County Road Association of Michigan says on its website. Although an annual nuisance for drivers, restrictions on weight, speed and axle-loading are tighter this year and slowing down the farming down in some parts of the state. Frost froze deep into the roads and made them more susceptible to potholes, said Clay Martz, manager of Crop Production Service in Lake Odessa, a company that ships fertilizer to corn growers.

Some wastes would be reused, not landfilled, under bills

By ASHLEY WEIGEL
Capital News Service
LANSING — Coal ash could be used in concrete, lime ash could be used for farming and copper sand could be made into shingles under legislation that would allow certain industries to sell byproducts that they now throw away. These byproducts can’t be used now because they are classified as hazardous materials that can potentially harm the environment. But recently introduced “beneficial reuse” legislation would provide parameters for testing their toxicity. If the byproducts passed the test, they could be sold and reused rather than sent to expensive landfills. The bills will be discussed in committee and possibly reported out on April 17.

Bath Farmer’s Market offers town alternative ideas

In today’s impersonal world, where people often buy their food at a supermarket, a farmer’s market can help create a special sense of community. Dru Montri, the owner of Ten Hens Farm in Bath and the director of the Michigan Farmer’s Market Association, was approached to help begin the Bath Farmer’s Market in 2010. “I think people in the town were starved for something to happen,” said  Jeff Garrity, the owner of Laughing Crane Farm, which maintains a booth at the market. Garrity, who is also the township treasurer, said that a total of 53 people showed up at the initial organizing meeting, a significant turnout for a town of  roughly 2,000. Towns across the nation are set up in neighborhoods, supermarkets and impersonal settings.

Mechanization rises with tighter farm labor

By LACEE SHEPARD
Capital News Service
LANSING – As workers at Michigan farms and orchards become more scarce, the need for mechanical harvesting is rising. Much of the produce that used to be hand-harvested is now almost completely harvested by machine, said Ken Nye, a commodity specialist for the Farm Bureau. That includes cherries and grapes. Efforts are underway to increase mechanization in harvesting, Nye said. The efforts have increased in importance in times when labor is scarce.