ABC’s Good Morning America features Michigan cherry and hop production

The latest episode of ABC’s Food Forecast with Ginger Zee showcases why northwest Michigan is ideal for cherry and hop production and how recent variable weather has impacted growers.

Nikki Rothwell of the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center talks to ABC chief meteorologist Ginger Zee about Michigan’s cherry production.

Nikki Rothwell of the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center talks to ABC chief meteorologist Ginger Zee about Michigan’s cherry production.

Earlier this month, ABC’s Good Morning America chief meteorologist, Ginger Zee, paid a visit to the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center to film “Food Forecast: Cherries and beer hops are growing like crazy in Michigan.” Food Forecast is a unique, six-part online series launched in late July 2016 and aims to cover how climate influences food industries across the United States. In particular, the show investigates the weather-related vulnerabilities and how industries overcome these hurdles.

The previous four episodes of this new series covered weather impacts on Maine’s lobster industry, Vermont’s maple syrup production and Napa Valley wine grapes. These industries have observed a shrinking ratio of “good” to “bad” years recently, a theme that is increasingly common amongst the nation’s agricultural industries including fruit producers in northwest Michigan.

A Michigan native from Rockford, Zee wanted to showcase Michigan agriculture in this new series. Food Forecast contacted Michigan State University climatologist Jeff Andresen with their interest, and Andresen steered Zee to our neck of the woods to investigate why this area is ideal for cherry and hop production and how recent variable weather has impacted fruit growers.

Each of the the last four years have brought climate-related difficulties to agricultural producers in our region. Summer-like temperatures across the state in March 2012 triggered early bloom followed by several freezes that devastated many fruit crops that season. Two brutally cold winters in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 resulted in extensive fruit tree and vine mortality.

Northern Michigan fruit consumers should not worry yet – according to statistics, Andresen believes that these winters were once-in-a-lifetime. In 2015, we had bloom-time freezes (albeit not as severe as those in 2012) followed by the catastrophic Aug. 2, 2015, storm with hail and straight-line winds that reached speeds up to 100 mph; this hail storm put a sizeable dent in apple and grape yields across the region. This season, a severe storm with quarter-inch to baseball-sized hail passed through at the onset of cherry harvest during the National Cherry Festival on July 8, 2016.

The fifth episode of Food Forecast: Cherries and beer hops are growing like crazy in Michigan features Andresen along with Nikki Rothwell of the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center, and MSU Extension emeritus Jim Nugent. These three experts shared with Zee how Michigan’s unique climate, moderated by the Great Lakes, allows producers to grow cold-sensitive fruit crops near the 45th parallel.

While weather patterns have been challenging for cherry growers in recent years, statewide cherry acreage has remained consistent. However, as discussed in the Food Forecast episode, some growers have diversified their business models or shifted toward the production of other crops such as hops for economic sustainability.

Check out northwest Michigan cherries and hops featured in this new online series at Food Forecast: Cherries and beer hops are growing like crazy in Michigan.

Related Articles