Farm tour highlights local carrot and potato production
Institutional food buyers get up close and personal with Michigan vegetable production on recent farm tour.
Over 20 school food service directors and farm to institution supply chain partners visited two farms on the final Cultivate Michigan Featured Foods tour of 2016. The tour was hosted by the Michigan Farm-to-Institution Network and Michigan State University Extension. The Michigan Potato Commission and the Michigan Vegetable Commission sponsored the tour. Tour stops included a carrot and a potato farm on the west side of the state. At both stops participants were able to witness the harvesting and the packing of the two products.
Participants traveled by bus from the Muskegon Interemediate School District’s (MISD) Career Tech Center where a light breakfast was provided, which was prepared by MISD culinary program students. The breakfast featured both Michigan carrots in carrot breakfast muffins and Michigan potatoes in a potato taquito (recipe featured in the Cultivate Michigan potato guide). The MISD culinary program also provided box lunches for the tour that prominently featured the two Michigan products.
The first stop on the tour was Malburg Acres LLC a second generation farm growing more than 140 acres of carrots in addition to asparagus and sugar beets. The farm is located in Hart, MI and owners Ryan and Krisz Malburg were able to explain to participants how the carrots are grown, harvested, packed and sold to either the fresh or processed market. Dr. Ben Werling, a Michigan State University Extension vegetable specialist provided information on pest and disease management and common growing practices. Participants were also joined by Mark Coe, who has worked with Malburg to purchase carrots for Goodwill’s Farm to Freezer program, which processes local Michigan produce into forms more easily used and stored by institutions including frozen coined and diced carrots.
After stopping by a carrot field to see the harvest in action participants meandered through the backroads of Oceana and Newaygo Counties to Grant, MI. Along the route we learned about potoato production from Michigan Potato Commission Executive Director, Mike Wenkel. The bus stopped at Boukamp farms, east of Grant. A farm tour was given by Kyle Bouwkamp, a third generation farmer and main operator of the farm. Bouwkamp farms grows several varieties of potatoes, including white, red, and russet, The farm also produces parsnips, beets, turnips and onions.
On the day of the tour Bouwkamp was harvesting russet potatoes and beets. After witnessing the harvest, participants traveled the short distance to Cedar Valley Packing. The facility is a former carrot packing warehouse located one block west of downtown Grant. The packing lines were not in full production during the tour; however, Kyle walked participants through and showed the various packing processes for different products. At the end of the tour, Kyle and his mother Nancy Bouwkamp, the office manager of the farm, treated the group to some homemade red potato soup.Tour participants walked away with a new perspective of both the carrots and potatoes that they use in institutional meals and a better understanding of just what it takes to grow these products.
Cultivate Michigan is a local purchasing campaign developed by the Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN), a statewide network coordinated by the Center for Regional Food Systems and the Ecology Center, with support from Michigan State University Extension.