As many of us know, Michigan is the nation’s leading producer of several different crops.
Our neighbors living in Northern Michigan know that Michigan is the Cherry Capitol of the World, but Michigan is also known for its potatoes, cheese, apples, Christmas trees and of course, sugar production in the thumb.
However, those of us in Southwest Michigan are more acquainted with a different crop: blueberries.
Michigan is the nation’s leading producer of cultivated blueberries, and we owe that to the several farms right here in Southwest Michigan. Most of the state’s blueberry farms are located within Allegan, Berrian, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties. In fact, there are over 600 family-owned farms that contribute to the roughly 100 million pounds of blueberries produced each year.
Keeping this production going is critical to both the Southwest Michigan economy and the entire state’s as well. Blueberry production alone injects nearly $122 million into the state’s economy, a figure that does not include money generated from tourists coming to Michigan for the many blueberry festivals across the state.
Every summer during the month of July, National Blueberry Month is celebrated nationwide, and in August, South Haven hosts the National Blueberry Festival. We can raise awareness of both the economic benefit that they bring to our region and the fact that health professionals often rate blueberries high on their list of healthiest foods to eat. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a booming industry right here in our back yards.
I encourage residents to purchase berries from a local farmer, a store that sells local produce, or a bakery that uses blueberries from nearby farms. Several farms also let you head out on your own for a pick-your-own experience that allows you to wonder through the rows and hand-pick your own basket, giving consumers a true, fresh from-from-the-vine product. For a list of farms that allow you to pick your own blueberries, please visit www.pickyourown.org/MI.htm.
The National Blueberry Festival in South Haven runs from August 11 through 14. For a list of events, directions, parking and other information, you can visit www.blueberryfestival.com.