Mid-June several Farm Bureau Campaign Managers took the opportunity to tour a variety of Michigan farms near Traverse City, MI. This is the third year Mark and I have gone on this trip and we have loved every one of them!
On our way to Traverse City we stopped at dunes along Lake Michigan.
If you look very close you can see the people standing near the water at the bottom of the dune. I wasn't able to fit the top of the dune in my frame it was huge!
Our first day we visited an orchard, winery and hops farm. King Orchards was our first stop and they grow cherries, apples, raspberries and vegetables. Cherries are their biggest crop which they sell at wholesale markets and farmers markets. Their cherry juice concentrate is sold online. An interesting challenge that King Orchards has had to overcome is that although healthy bees are key to good pollination of their crops, the bees didn’t over-winter well there. Because of this, the Kings' bee keeper moved to Florida with the bees. The Kings now rent the bees at peak pollination times. They transport the bees by semi in their hives covered with netting from Florida. (Picture above is a cherry picker.)
After our visit to King Orchards, we enjoyed lunch and wine tasting at Black Star Farms. They feature two winery production facilities with tasting rooms, a distillery, an inn and equestrian facility. It was absolutely beautiful and booked every weekend with weddings. Another aspect I enjoyed in our visit to Black Star Farms was that they grow much of the food they use for their dinner events right on the property. (Picture above is a wine cave)
Hops plants growing up the wires. they will reach the top and grow out. Hops are harvest at the top of the wires in the fall.
During our second day of tours we visited a robotic dairy and potato operation. The robotic barn we visited has been in use since last November. The cows are enticed to the milking area with feed pellets. They are scanned and the machine then knows when the cows were last milked and will either milk them or send them on. It also knows if the cow has just had a calf and will divert that milk into another tank for the calves. If a cow doesn’t get milked within a certain time frame the farmer gets a message on his cell phone with the cow’s number and they get her milked. The technology involved was very impressive.
Spoiled cows! :)
Our final tour was a potato farm. They had a large, state of the art, storage cooler we got to tour. It was pressurized, temperature regulated and kept at 95% humidity. They designed and built most of the cleaning and packaging equipment they use to save money and for efficiency (picture above). Potatoes are on a five year crop rotation to prevent certain diseases. They rotate potatoes, green beans, corn, soybeans and hay.
After a full day touring Mark and I enjoyed kayaking with friends. We went 7 miles starting in a river (pictured above), then across a lake, had a small portage and kayaked threw town and ended up in the freezing, rough bay. Thankfully we didn't have far to paddle in the bay, the water was around 50 degrees! Brrr
Posing for a picture during our portage.
Kayaking in town.
After many, many hours on the bus this ferry was a welcome sight! We rode across Lake Michigan in this, bus and all.