Mar 27, 2019
Michigan ag commission elects leader, gives grants

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development elected new officers, during its regularly scheduled meeting March 27, and voted to approve Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants.

Trever Meachum of Hartford was elected Chair of the Commission. Meachum is the production manager for High Acres Fruit Farm, a 3,000-acre fruit, vegetable and cash crop farm in Van Buren County, according to a news release. He farms with his parents and two brothers, serves as the secretary of the Hartford Township Planning Commission, and is a member of the Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Association Apple Committee.

Dru Montri of Bath was elected Secretary of the Commission. Montri and her husband, Adam, own and operate Ten Hens Farm, a year-round vegetable farm in Bath. She also works as Director of Governmental Affairs and Stakeholder Relations for the MSU Colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Veterinary Medicine. Montri has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in horticulture from Penn State University. She also holds a PhD in horticulture and community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies from Michigan State.

The Commission also voted to approve 11 food and agriculture projects that will accelerate the growth of food and agriculture companies focused on processed fruit, meat, baked goods, and craft beverages, as well as support the expansion of a food accelerator that will benefit the growth of multiple companies in a shared location.

“Michigan’s food and agriculture industry isn’t booming because of a couple mega-companies,” said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “It’s booming because of the thousands of small- and mid-sized operations that bring new, innovative ideas, products and technologies to the table. The hurdle that some of these businesses have, however, is securing enough capital to grow and stay ahead of the curve. These grants are designed to do exactly that. These relatively small, targeted investments help protect and create local jobs in both large and small communities across the entire state.”

Bear Creek Organics of Petoskey, Michigan, will receive an $80,000 performance-based grant to expand its year-round growing capacity for greens and living herbs. The company will invest approximately $432,500 for this project, which will include new processing space, new greenhouses and new hoophouses at their farm in Petoskey. The project will create five new jobs and will allow the company to invest in new technology and ensure Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance. The company was launched six years ago and has grown to be a recognized leader in the farming, food, and greater business community; and it is the only farm in their area growing fresh greens 52 weeks a year.

Brian’s Food of Southfield, Michigan, will receive a $100,000 performance-based grant to expand their production operations to produce calzones and other packaged products. The company will invest approximately $1.2 million to lease, renovate and add machinery and equipment to an existing building in Southfield. This project is necessary in order to meet the demand for its products and will lead to the creation of 20 new jobs. The project will also lead to the sourcing of more than 500 tons of ingredients from Michigan farmers and distributors on an annual basis, including flour and vegetables, such as onions, mushrooms, and green peppers. The company plans to continue to expand its product offerings by developing additional calzone varieties and sizes, as well as adding other product lines. Brian’s Food was launched in 2015 and has grown to supply more than 250 customers, primarily in Michigan and surrounding states.

“We are very excited to be working with a diverse group of growing food and agriculture business here in Michigan,” said Peter Anastor, Director of MDARD’s Agriculture Development Division. “They are all great examples of the results that can happen when we take the great products we grow and produce in Michigan and turn them into value-added food products that lead to investment and job creation right here in Michigan. It is really great to see projects like the Allen Place Accelerator Kitchen become reality, as it provides opportunities for small food companies to take the next step in their growth.”

The Food and Agriculture Investment Program provides financial support for food and agriculture projects that help expand food and agriculture processing to enable growth in the industry and Michigan’s economy. Projects are selected based on their impact to the overall agriculture industry and their impact to food and agriculture growth and investment in Michigan.





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