Nov 19, 2019
Fruit research center in Michigan to be near asparagus research field

A fruit tree research center in northern Oceana County is being planned by the newly formed West Central Michigan Horticultural Research Inc.

According to Nov. 17 story by the Mason County Press, the West Central Michigan Horticultural Research Inc.’s (WCMHR) 6,000-square-foot facility, which will be located on a 40-acre fruit farm on North Oceana Drive next to the Michigan State University asparagus research field, will also include a community/grower meeting room and a research laboratory.

The nonprofit group includes representatives from Oceana, Mason and Newaygo counties and will include a farm manager/researcher from Michigan State.

WCMHR President Andy Riley of Riley Orchards in Mears said the station’s research will concentrate on ares such as root stock on apples and spotted wing drosophila in tart cherries.

“Our area offers a very diverse micro climate and soil properties,” Riley said. “We offer a rich fruit growing climate with rolling hills a short distance from Lake Michigan along with sandy soil. Our uniqueness, however, often means that data obtained at other research stations do not reflect the issues our growers experience. Farmers in Muskegon County, for example, can see completely different issues than a farmer in Oceana County.

“Michigan is the second most agricultural diverse state in the union and our specific counties are some of the most agricultural diverse counties in Michigan.”

The group is forming partnerships with Michigan State University Extension, Michigan State Horticulture Society, the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) and local conservation districts to ensure the exploration of alternative energy and environmental best practices in agriculture, Riley said. The group plans to work with local historical societies to preserve agricultural history in the area.

Long range plans include research into other crops besides fruit.

WCMHR also plans to work introduce a young farmer program and furnish the tools and land needed to support the program.

The board is comprised of six local growers, one processor and an advisor from MSU Extension. The research station is being funded by local growers and processors, along with potential funding assistance from Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Other major funds have come from Peterson Farms, Inc., and the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission.

“We are still in need of funding partners for this center,” Riley said. “We are looking for additional support from local farmers, processors and the general public.”

Donors who contribute $1,000 or more will have the option to have their company, farm, or individual name engraved on a plaque that will be placed on the building recognizing the contribution.

“Any donation will be gladly accepted,” Riley said.

For more information, contact Patricia Parsons, administrator, at 231-861-6333, extension 294 or email [email protected].

Contributions can be sent to Michigan State Horticultural Society Trust, attention Patricia Parsons, PO Box 115, Shelby, MI 49455. Contributions are tax deductible.

West Central Michigan Horticultural Research board, from left, Art Lister, And Riley, Caleb Coulter, David Rennhack and Gerrit Herrygers. Not pictured:  Mike VanAgtmael, Richard Raffaelli and David Jones, Michigan State University Extension. Photo: Mason County Press

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