Feeding Michigan’s Economy Corp! Salutes State’s Food and Agriculture Industry

Whether you’re a foodie, a master chef or barely know how to work a microwave, we all have something in common: We have to eat. In this day and age, most people rely on their local grocer or restaurant for everything they consume. Without them, our lives would be flavorless in more ways than one.

So it makes sense to honor the individuals and businesses that make up Michigan’s food and agriculture industry. They are the ones who grow the fruits and vegetables as well as tend to the animals that make up most of our dinner plates. They bring the food out of the fields, take it to the processing plants, bring it to the manufacturers and deliver it to the shops and eateries we frequent. It is a cycle that happens daily and it is so seamless we barely notice it.

Thanks to their relentless hard work, Michigan can brag about how our food and agriculture industry is the second largest economic sector in the state, experts say. It is largely recession proof, provides thousands of workers with long-term careers and is among the most innovative areas in terms of technology and marketing.

To honor these accomplishments, Corp! magazine created the Food & Agriculture Awards. A quick look at the list of 2012’s winners reveals a bevy of household names: Faygo, Better Made, Bell’s Brewery, Zoup!, Gordon’s Food Service, Eastern Market Corp., Dearborn Sausage Co., Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant and many more. They were honored at a salute to the Food and Agriculture industry Nov. 15 at the VisTaTech Center at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich.

Here are your winners:

Achatz Handmade Pie Co.

Chesterfield Township
They may make their pies the old-fashioned way, but that hasn’t stopped Achatz Handmade Pie Co. from being a modern marvel of efficiency and organization. Owner Wendy and Dave Achatz started the pie-making company in 1993 inside their Armada home, selling pies at farmers’ markets. They soon moved the busy business to a nearby apple orchard and eventually opened eight storefronts across southeast Michigan. The Achatz family emphasizes their “Buy Local” philosophy -“ purchasing much of their fruit, flours, sugar and dairy products from Michigan farms. They also are known by their tradition of giving employees Saturdays off to spend with their families. The couple, who have five children, now operate their headquarters in Chesterfield Township.

American Coney Island

American Coney Island is defined by one thing: A great hotdog. A close runner up to that title would be Grace Keros, the third-generation owner. The family-run business started in 1917 with Keros’ grandfather, who created the classic combination of a hot dog, chili, onions and mustard. Now in its 95th year, the coney restaurant at Michigan Avenue and Lafayette is known for its “Coney Kits,” fundraising and off-site eateries at the Detroit Zoo and, most recently, Las Vegas at the D Casino. While some things never change, having these new locations has been the biggest update for the longtime restaurant, so Keros is now working with her brother, Chris Sitiropoulous, for the Vegas site -“ and possibly others. “It’s great to work with family. And everything we do always comes back to family,” Keros said.

American Spoon

American Spoon is the combination of farmer Justin Rashid and Chef Larry Forgione. Their passion for the food and flavors of Northern Michigan brought them together in a partnership in 1982. They named their company in honor of the spoon you need to eat the large pieces of fruit found inside each jar. The duo has expanded well beyond their original Early Grow strawberries to include salsas, grilling sauces, relishes, condiments, maple syrup and pancake mixes. These days, the business is busy with the American Spoon Cafe in Petoskey and other enterprises that celebrate the founders’ love for Michigan and the food it provides its residents.

Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers

St. Johns
Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers in St. Johns blends its ecological philosophies with the basic needs of farmers, creating products that preserve today’s foods and tomorrow’s environment. The company manufactures and markets in-house formulated and branded liquid fertilizer products. Since 1983, the business has focused on helping its customers through its advanced products. These are created through years of research and development, much of which is done at its 600-acre research farm dedicated to the advancement of crop nutrition and product development. The result is an efficient yet high-performance line of fertilizers and supplements that provide sustainable results. Along with its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Ashley, the company is adding a site in Stockton, Calif., to boost its presence there.

Atlas Wholesale Foods Co.

Under the direction of its founder, Athas Kotsis, Atlas Wholesale Foods Co. has been a foodservice distributor to Southeast Michigan businesses since 1949. Its dual goals of providing quality and service are what have the third-generation, family-owned business going for so long. It distributes a full line of products such as canned goods, frozen food, fresh produce, meats, dairy, paper products and cleaning supplies. Its clients include restaurants, schools and government facilities. It has gained new customers in recent years by focusing on adding new categories of food and other products, making Atlas a one-stop shop for the companies that use its services.

Bell’s Brewery Inc.

Among Michigan craft-beer lovers, few names have such reverence as that of Larry Bell, founder of Bell’s Brewery Inc. What started in a 15-gallon soup kettle has turned into an international phenomenon, giving Kalamazoo a real claim to fame (along with the recently renovated Eccentric Cafe). The company has grown quickly since it sold its first beer in 1985, going from an original production of 135 barrels to more than 500,000 today. That is achievable in part due to its new logistics center and brewhouse, which it started using in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The 400-barrel fermentation tanks, new grain handling facilities and employee-care area expanded the brewery to 100,000 square feet. These days, Bell’s now has four total locations and more than 180 employees.

Better Made Snack Food Co.

There is only one crunchy king in Detroit, and that undisputed champ is Better Made Snack Food Co. Cross & Peters founded the company in 1930 in Detroit. Still located in its hometown, Better Made has a loyal following for its potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, pork rinds, tortilla chips and more. It also has built a brand for its beef jerky, salsas and cheese dips to accompany its salty and sweet treats. The company still uses locally grown potatoes, which can go from a simple spud to a complete chip in less than 10 minutes. The family-owned company may be the reason Detroiters eat an average of seven pounds of chips per year (opposed to four pounds for the rest of the country), but no one here seems to be complaining.

Breakfast on the Farm

East Lansing
The food in your local grocery store doesn’t just show up there; it likely came from a family-farm somewhere in Michigan. Thanks to Breakfast on the Farm, local farmers are helping to tell the story of what happens between the fields and the plate. Since the first Breakfast on the Farm event in 2009 in St. Johns, more than 40,000 people have attended an event -“ typically held between June through October -“ to find out exactly where their food was made. Each event includes information about farming and food production, wagon rides and lessons on everything from cow milking to tractor driving. Organizers from the Michigan State University Extension held three volunteer-led events in 2010, eight in 2011 and eight in 2012.

Busch’s Fresh Food Markets

Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor-based Busch’s Fresh Food Markets are the definition of a family supermarket. The stylish stores combine the personal service of a neighborhood grocer with the selection expected from a food superstore. Founders Joe Busch and Charlie Mattis created the privately held chain in 1975, which is now operated by sons Doug, John and Tim. The chain, which employs about 1,500 people, has 15 stores ranging in size from 26,000 to 51,000 square feet. Each store has a deli, cafe and other traditional grocery-store elements. It also bakes its own gourmet Busch’s Kitchen and Bakery items from its Clinton production facility.

Cadeau Creations

Cadeau Creations is a catering and event service company in Baraga, a small city in the Upper Peninsula. Its speciality is working with local farmers and organic foods to create unique seasonal menus, catering service and special occasions for its clients. Finding local, healthy options is what inspires owner Chimene Cadeau in her recipes, working closely with area farmers to design her offerings. With more than 20 years of fine-dining experience, Cadeau worked with individual customers, group events, local food pantries and independent-living programs around the Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Marquette communities. She has experience as well with vegan and vegetarian catering, providing a variety of sustainable seafood and other options.

Calder Dairy

Lincoln Park
Calder Dairy had some humble beginnings -“ its first-day sales were a whopping $17.88, according to Calder family lore. Founder Bill Calder started the company with a bonus check from his Air Force job, purchasing a 12-year-old laundry truck. From there, he brought milk from area dairy farms, processing it at a plant in Livonia. The family purchased their own farm in Carlton, building up its brood slowly from a single Brown Swiss to now a herd of more than 140 cows. The company, which is now under the direction of Bill’s son, John, still delivers its own milk products through more modern-day delivery trucks. Along with farm tours, Calder is becoming widely known for its ice cream, which comes in dreamy flavors such as Bloo Moo, Coconut and Caramel Cappuccino.

Carrettino Italian Market & Wine

Grand Rapids
Generations of the Russo family have been food purveyors, delivering their goods through the carrettino, or the small Sicilian donkey cart that carries deliveries. That image remains beloved among the Russos, who are the owners and operators of Carrettino Italian Market & Wine, where a reproduction of the cart is proudly on display. John and Maha Russo and their three oldest children, Gina, Mike and Greg, are experts in the specialty food and wine industry. Their traditional Italian provision store carries authentic products made in store or imported straight from Italy, like its pasta and tomato products. The store also does corporate gifts as well as catering, creating fresh appetizers, antipasto trays and more. Personal service is a key part of the store’s success with family members walking the sales floor daily.

Chateau Grand Traverse

Traverse City
“Best in Class” is among the top three words that come to mind when Chateau Grand Traverse is mentioned. The winery, established in 1974 on Old Mission Peninsula, has won dozens upon dozens of awards for its Michigan-grown wines. The O’Keefe family -“ father Ed and sons Eddie and Sean -“ are the hands-on growers, using sustainable practices through its 120-acre estate vineyards. They also work with growers on another 60 acres nearby, selling three main brands: Chateau Grand Traverse, Grand Traverse Select and Traverse Bay Winery. If you cannot come to one of its free winery tours or tastings, its extensive line of wines (particularly its well-known Rieslings) are sold across the state and are available at many area restaurants.

Chateau Aeronautique

Why travel to France or another far-flung locale when Jackson has Chateau Aeronautique? This winery, established in 2008, is a destination and then some. The world-class boutique winery makes fine Rieslings, cherry wines and other specialties. The setting is warm and unique -“ the overall theme of an airpark is displayed through vintage airplanes within a hangar on a grass runway. The Chateau models its creations on those of Bordeaux, France, focusing on aroma and taste in particular. Private wine tastings are a regular event inside the private tasting room next to the wine cellar. Although the Chateau is booked most weekends, there is always room for more guests, the owners say. Future growth includes a new barrel cellar, additional tasting room and distribution locally within southeast Michigan and beyond.

Cherry Central

Traverse City
There’s power in numbers, and that is certainly true for the growers who work with Cherry Central. The cooperative is king when it comes to red tart cherries, apples and blueberries, helping its member partners sell their goods and ensure steady revenue. But the co-op also is a major supplier of cranberries, strawberries, pomegranate arils and asparagus. While Cherry Central works with farms beyond Michigan, they seek out long-term partnerships with Michigan growers. Sizable manufacturers, including Kraft, Kellogg and more, rely on the co-op to deliver dried, frozen and canned products from farm to table, a tradition that dates back to its founding in 1973. The united front for marketing and selling has been a powerful force, giving Cherry Central record sales in recent years.

Chive Talkin

Chive Talkin turns the old cliché “You are what you eat” on its head. That’s because to this company you are what you wear as well. The company sells herbs, spices and funky T-shirts that inspire people to think about what they ingest and why. Its slogans are a bit on the spicy side -“ “Yippee Cayenne Mother Pepper” comes to mind -“ but that is intentional. The idea is to encourage and educate people as to the medicinal and nutritional value of the products they put in their mouths. For example, a spoonful of cumin can contain nearly 20 percent your daily iron intake. And a bay-leaf tea can alleviate athlete’s foot. Its spices are sourced and sold locally, and its apparel is found in Whole Foods markets across the Midwest.


Ann Arbor-based CityFARM is working with residential and commercial properties to create urban farms across Southeast Michigan. It hopes to do the same in Detroit soon.

Ann Arbor
CityFARM, an urban-farming company that started in January 2012, specializes in the design, installation and maintenance of urban farms and gardens for residential and commercial properties. Its first year brought 40 new clients, allowing the company to employee two full-time workers and three part-timers. Besides its consulting and farming divisions, the business has an online store where it sells handmade products such as cedar raised beds, composters, container gardens and trellises. Its goal is to have $10,000 in monthly sales from the site. Part of CityFARM’s five-year plan is to go into urban rooftop farming and start a Detroit Food Hub, a place within the city where small farms could grow and sell their food to larger institutions.

The Coffee Beanery

High-school sweethearts, JoAnne and Julius Shaw bring a family-centered mentality to The Coffee Beanery. Both of their sons, Kurt and Keith, also work for the company. Denver Smith Photography

JoAnne Shaw thinks of The Coffee Beanery as her baby, coming into the world through luck, hope and hard work. Since 1976, that baby has grown into a sizable chain of specialty coffee shops with about 100 locations in Michigan, the nation and internationally. Coffee is an obsession for Shaw and her co-founder and husband, Julius. Their cafe stores serve espresso, fresh-brewed coffee, tea and other specialty drinks, while also selling gourmet coffee beans, tea bags, baked goods, sandwiches, soups, fresh salads and a line of branded mugs and coffee machines. They are looking to grow just about everywhere, including Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Central America, Europe, Mexico and South America.

Cook’s Farm Dairy Inc.

Cook’s Farm Dairy Inc. in Ortonville is a 200-acre farm that uses technology, genetics and grit to continue the farming tradition in Oakland County. The farm, which is open for tours and retail sales, produces milk products of every kind, everything from hormone-free chocolate to buttermilk to skim. It also makes 20 flavors of premium ice cream and seasonal goods such as egg nog. The Dairy recently celebrated its 30th anniversary of its “Moo to You” tagline, unveiling a new logo and ice-cream carton. This new packaging follows the farm’s overall beliefs in being environmentally friendly and easy to use. Its five-year plan is to continue to grow its retail sales, making fresh dairy products accessible to all.

Country Home Creations Inc.

Shirley Kautman-Jones always had a passion to help people create tasty food with time and budget in mind. She started Country Home Creations Inc. as a side business, helping co-workers and then customers create easy-to-make recipes from her spice bags. She started making other kits and mixes, winning awards for her New York Style Cheesecake mix and others. Country Home Creations is now global with more than 100 products found in a variety of retailers. Each gourmet mix is hand packed, made from all-natural ingredients as much as possible and follows traditional recipes customers have grown to love. The Goodrich company, which operates out of a 10,000-square-foot facility, employs more than 20 people in Michigan.

Dearborn Sausage

It’s hard to keep something as delicious as Dearborn Sausage a secret. That is why people travel near and far to visit the Dearborn company, picking up its specialty hams, sausage, hot dogs, kielbasa and side dishes since 1946. These days, you can find Dearborn-branded products across Metro Detroit at hot-dog stands, restaurants and grocery stores. Founder Victor Kosch created some legendary foods, particularly the spiral-sliced ham, a tasty treat that is smoked for nearly a full day before being hand glazed. Its headquarters on Wyoming Street in East Dearborn offers everything from eat-in prepared foods, take-out meals and catering. It also has a Dearborn Sausage retail store on Gratiot Avenue in Roseville.

Detroit Popcorn Co.

Redford Township
The first thing the Detroit Popcorn Co. tells people goes something like this: We are more than just popcorn. Indeed, the Redford Township company also is the state’s top concession equipment, supply and fun-foods dealer. Detroit Popcorn Co. does a bit of everything, from sales, rentals, leases and replacement programs. They sell parts for pretty much any machine out there from Bunn to Wilch to Jet Spray. And they can fix all of your sno-kone makers, beverage dispensers, fryers and food warmers. They also have glorious popcorn, candy apples, corn dogs, cotton candy and anything else your sweet tooth could want. Its one-stop food shop is a 20,000-square-foot candy land. And, best of all, it’s open to the public all year.

Eastern Market Corp.

Eastern Market Corp. is the brains behind Detroit’s venerable Eastern Market district and corresponding marketplace, known for its fresh food and diverse vendors. Its purpose is to bring together the leadership and resources to keep Eastern Market hopping, building a “dynamic, diverse and unique urban district” in the heart of Detroit. It does this through marketing the food retailers, wholesale operations, restaurants, distributors and food processors on site. It sells the district’s neighborhoods, builds the business climate there and develops the kind of funky space that hipsters, families and groups want to visit. It also makes sure the district is clean, well-lighted and safe. That’s a lot for one corporation, but organizers believe Eastern Market is a gem worth the work.

Edibles Rex

Edibles Rex supplies food and beverage catering as well as event services across Metro Detroit. Its strength is in its extensive array of menus, themes and venues where it can set up, serve and clean up enough food for any crowd you throw at them. Its clients have varied over the years from the region’s Big Three automakers to President Bill Clinton to art-gallery openings. Founder Tammy Tedesco opened Edibles Rex in 1994 after two successful years at a small carry-out restaurant in Grosse Pointe Woods. A loyal client base followed her into this new company, which produces award-winning cuisine for any palate.

Faygo Beverages Inc.

It is arguable that no Michigan household is complete without a bottle of Redpop in the fridge. And it goes without saying Faygo Beverages Inc. is as much as part of the state as Motown music, Tigers baseball and Lions football. The company dates back to 1907 when bakers and brothers Ben and Perry Feigenson opened a bottle works to sell pop flavored like the frostings they made. With more than 50 flavors now, Faygo remains a favorite locally and beyond. Faygo since 1987 has been part of the National Beverage family, which also offers flavored soft drinks, juices, sparkling waters, energy drinks and nutritionally-enhanced waters.

Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn Restaurant

Is it the chicken? Is it the cucumber salad? Is it that everything is homemade and baked fresh on site? Whatever the reason, Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn Lodge and Restaurant are the kind of places where everyone finds a favorite dish or place to play. With its old-world charm and quaint décor, visitors can see what it would be like to live in the heart of Germany all on one campus. The Lodge and Restaurant are located on 13 acres next to a riverfront, complete with a Glockenspiel, wooden covered bridge and horse-drawn carriages. After a walking tour, the highlight of any visit is a family-style chicken dinner with so many side dishes you’ll probably lose count. And that is just how the Zehnder family wants it.

Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan

Mention the name Gleaners to anyone in Metro Detroit, and they will immediately know of the good work this organization has done for the region over the past 35 years. Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan distributed 46.7 million pounds of emergency food last year to more than 600 partner soup kitchens, shelters and pantries in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties. That is about 97,300 meals per day to families that otherwise would go without. Of every dollar donated, Gleaners use 94 cents for food and food programs. In recent years, Gleaners has enjoyed record growth in its distribution and programs, has had record numbers of volunteers and developed a nutrition education program, “Cooking Matters,” with partner Share Our Strength. While its mission will never be fully met, Gleaners is indeed making a dent where it matters most -“ with families in need.

Gordon Food Service

Grand Rapids
Seeing that red, yellow and white Gordon Food Service flag brings several words to mind: quality and quantity. That’s because the Grand Rapids-based company is the largest family-owned broadline foodservice distributor in North America. What started as a butter-and-egg delivery business has changed dramatically over the past century, offering customers of its retail stores and partners fresh and prepackaged foods of every stripe. Founded in 1897, Gordon Food Service has built its reputation on reliability and integrity, something that shows through its company and 150 locations in Michigan, the Midwest and beyond. And besides being the go-to store for every party supply on Earth, its lasagna is just plain delicious.

Graceland Fruit Inc.

Here’s a little-known fact: Graceland Fruit Inc. is the largest single provider of dried fruits in the world. And it is based in Frankfort. The company mainly produces dried cherries, cranberries, blueberries and apples for commercial and consumer use. It also was recently named “Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year” by Gov. Rick Snyder for “proactively working to identify their top export markets and make changes to their products to meet their export customers’ needs.” The company, which began exporting in 1995, works with 42 countries internationally. Graceland said it has seen its export business grow by 40 percent in 2011.

GreenStone Farm Credit Services

East Lansing
East Lansing-based GreenStone Farm Credit Services is one of America’s largest rural lenders. The $6.2 billion organization has nearly 23,000 members with 37 branches in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. GreenStone specializes in providing financial services to the agriculture industry, including short, intermediate and long-term loans, equipment and building leases, life insurance, crop insurance as well as accounting, tax and appraisal services. GreenStone also specializes in residential and country home loans, and provides lending products for the purchase, improvement, construction or refinance of residences along with financing future home sites and recreational land. GreenStone recently surpassed $6 billion in total owned and managed assets for the first time in the organization’s 95-plus year history.

Groeb Farms

Groeb Farms is a honey processor that sells to other stores and companies in the retail, foodservice and industrial industries. The company started in 1973 as Ernest L. Groeb Jr. brought his two sons, Ernie and Troy, into a beekeeping project. Eventually, the trio had more than 5,000 hives across Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin. They added other products, including peanut butter, mustard, molasses and vinegar to become a one-stop supplier for commercial clients. In recent years, the company has picked up other vendors through expansion and acquisitions, allowing Groeb Farms to go national. So that little project has grown to buy honey from more than 40 states and internationally, pack 85 million pounds of honey annually and have one of the world’s largest brokerage networks. Those are some busy bees.

Harvest Michigan Inc.

Orion Township
Harvest Michigan Inc. has a single mission -“ to introduce the world to Michigan and its farmers, sustainable companies and their products. The website serves as a link between consumers and the state’s food producers, featuring Michigan-made products exclusively. Owner Yvette Berman also runs Organic By The Case, which helps people buy organic goods in bulk. Together, the two companies are known as Organic Earth Group LLC. The two companies are inspired by her son, who responded well to organic milk after suffering from a longtime rash. Her ultimate goal is to serve as an outlet for those who wish to live without chemicals at home and in their food. In other words, she’d be the Amazon.com of all things organic.

Hunt’s Hillside Farm

When it comes to agri-tourism, Hunt’s Hillside Farm is right on board. Agri-tourism is a way to mix agriculture and tourism, bringing more people out of the city or their homes and into nature via the farm. Hunt’s Hillside LLC focuses on both its customers and its farms through this unique method of serving the public good. Hunt’s at heart is a family owned and operated farm in Lawton offering you-pick raspberries from July through October of most years. The business’s goal is to give families and groups a top-notch farm experience from finding the best berries to picking them to bringing them home to eat.

Just Baked

With its statewide distribution, Just Baked is the undisputed expert when it comes to cupcakes and other treats. The company that brought Michigan its first taste of a “Grumpy Cake Cupcake” is expanding in 2012 and beyond with more locations, additional product lines and big changes in terms of the services it offers, said owner Pam Turkin. The chain just opened its 13th store, and it expects to have 17 total by Valentine’s Day of 2013, Turkin said. Just Baked also will move into Cleveland next year, its first store outside of the state where Turkin and her husband, Todd, founded it in January 2009. The next phase for the company is to build on its brand name by adding other decadent, fresh and home-made products to its mix. To that end, Just Baked will soon start offering ice cream, ice-cream cookie sandwiches and hand-crafted toppings. She said the company’s goal is to open an ice-cream shop called “Just Topped” inside Detroit’s Dime Building.

Koppert Biological Systems USA

Koppert Biological Systems USA provides pollination services and crop protection. KBSI is a leading international producer of beneficial insects that allow growers to reduce their dependence on pesticides. Its primary focus is on biological crop protection and natural pollination. In 2011, Koppert Biological systems opened a new facility in Howell for bumblebee production. The goal is to create large-scale production of natural pest enemies as well as pollinators within modern production facilities. Its goal through this new facility is to double its sales in a five-year timeframe, helping farmers and others use Mother Nature to their best ability.

Macomb Restaurant Supply

Macomb Restaurant Supply in Utica has been in business with other businesses since 1969. It is a top supplier for bars, country clubs, schools, hospitals and restaurants in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties primarily. Its showroom, which is open to the public, is a wonderland of goods. It has worked hard over the past 40 years to develop strong supplier relationships. For example, Macomb Restaurant Supply’s paper-supply vendor has a redistribution center the size of 10 football fields -“ and anything there can be shipped immediately to its clients. All of its products are sold at discount or competitive prices. The company also offers consulting services for its clients and industry partners.

Michigan Agricultural Commodities Inc.

Michigan Agricultural Commodities Inc. is a privately held corporation that buys, sells and stores agricultural commodities in Michigan, nationally and internationally. Founded in 1976, MAC trades and handles everything from corn to fertilizer to futures. With 13 elevators in Michigan and Ontario, MAC is the state’s largest grain handler with eight locations, 39 million bushels of storage and 110 employees. MAC serves about 12,000 farmers in Michigan from their inputs to grain handling to marketing. It works with large clients such as Perdue, Tyson and Smithfield Foods to make sure its members are able to keep a steady revenue stream regardless of weather or other impacts. In 2011, MAC increased storage capacity by 13.5 percent at select facilities and expects that to increase another 5.2 percent this year.

Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general agricultural trade group. It has been a part of Michigan’s rural lifestyle since 1919. Today, it has more than 200,000 family members in 67 county Farm Bureaus. Members receive the Farm Bureau’s lobbying efforts, protection on issues on quality in the local food supply and promotion of the state’s agriculture industry. Member benefits also include insurance coverage (health and dental, for example) and information on pretty much any agricultural related issue or question a grower might have. The organization also holds an annual meeting where news and awards are shared with members and the public.

Michigan Farmers Market Association

East Lansing
Michigan Farmers Market Association is a statewide, member-based association that works with and for farmers market organizers, managers, farmers and vendors. The goal is to create thriving marketplaces among the more than 220 farmers markets around Michigan. That is up from about 90 markets in 2001, when the Association began. It works with state and federal representatives to further farming causes. It also tries to improve people’s understanding about the quality of where their food comes from, connecting residents with their local farmers. Members received educational events, group insurance rates and market-evaluation services to help them better meet the needs of their communities.

Michigan Milk Producers Association

Michigan Milk Producers Association started in Howell when a small group of dairy farmers met to talk about market and pricing issues. That groundwork laid in 1916 still serves the cooperative nature of the Association. The MMPA board is all dairy farmers who have a vested interest in the success of the cooperative. The main goal of the Association is to guarantee payment for members’ milk. In addition, any profits gained through the marketing of the milk are returned to the entire membership. The MMPA also plays a vital role balancing the Michigan milk market. About 40 percent of the milk produced in Michigan is utilized in the Class I marketplace or what is commonly known as fluid milk. The milk that is not sold for fluid purposes must be processed into other products. To create a balance, the MMPA buys milk from all producers, selling it in all market classifications.

Michigan Pork Producers Association

East Lansing
Michigan Pork Producers Association, an affiliate of the National Port Producers Council, was founded in 1969. It serves as a way to unify the state’s pork producers in both industry and public-policy issues. The Association also markets and promotes pork consumption locally. Michigan is ranked 13th in U.S. pork production with 2,100 pork producers marketing more than 2 million hogs annually. It is estimated that pork production contributes nearly $600 million to Michigan’s economy each year, including pork exports. Michigan producers also meet to talk about environmental management, animal nutrition, the latest in technology and research to create safe and tasty pork products for Michigan families.

Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee

Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee works to inform the general public about the amazing Michigan soybean. The Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, organized in 1976, is a farmer-created organization that operates under state and national law to research, promote, educate, and communicate information about soybeans to a broad population including farmers, consumers, health professionals and researchers. The Committee considers the soybean the golden bean for a greener environment. The state ranks 12th in soybean production; nearly two million acres are planted annually by Michigan’s more than 10,000 soybean farms. Association estimates put the crop’s economic impact on the state at about $1.25 billion in 2011.

Morley Candy Makers Inc.

Clinton Township
Morley Candy Makers Inc. and its Sanders brand name have been Detroit traditions since 1875. Its Artisan-inspired chocolates, toppings and gifts are legendary, creating memories of delicious treats for generations of Michigan residents. Fred Sanders opened the first Sanders Chocolate store, using premium ingredients in his famous cakes, ice creams, caramels and chocolates. In addition to its stores, Sanders sells its products to wholesalers and distributors across the United States. Morley, which began in 1919, is the parents company to Sanders, buying its name and recipes in 2002. Both companies find their home in Clinton Township inside a 75,000-square-foot factory.

Munsell’s Poultry Processing

Munsell’s Poultry Processing in Fowlerville is a facility that processes poultry and rabbits in Michigan. The USDA regulated and licensed facility opened in June 2011. Owners Rachel and Matthew Munsell have doubled the business since then, drawing customers from as far as Alpena who want to provide their families and customers with all-natural food. Munsell’s Poultry Processing works with a variety of clients. For example, the company processed three 4-H county fairs last year; this year it processed six. The couple has built its business through its reputation for service, serving as the home of the State FFA Broiler Contest and speaking on food-safety education and seminars across the state.

National Coney Island

When you hear the words “Hani Special,” do you automatically think of National Coney Island? If so, you must be a fan of these popular Southeastern Michigan restaurants. The Roseville chain of 20 eateries is best known for its neon décor and polished brass as well as its ability to mix fast and friendly service with affordable prices. The company, which began in 1965, makes everything from hand-dipped milkshakes to massive omelets prepared any time of day to Detroit-style Coney Island hot dogs. The chain hopes to continue to expand by two restaurants annually, serving many of its healthy and hearty food options like homemade soups and garden-fresh salads.

Nifty Hoops LLC

Poly cover is installed on a 6,000 Square foot hoophouse for Green Things Farm in Ann Arbor. Photo by Sandy Lada

Ann Arbor
Nifty Hoops LLC in Ann Arbor designs, manufactures and installs greenhouses specifically catered to the rapidly growing diversified vegetable production market. Farms employing what is known as “hoophouse production” are often small, sustainable-practice or organic producers selling through direct to consumer marketing such as farmers markets and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The hoophouses, often 300- to 6,000-square-foot structures, allow growers to farm through all four of Michigan’s seasons. The year-old business grew rapidly under the success of its inaugural product, a 30-foot wide gothic structure, and it is ready to launch its second product soon. Because of interest in locally produced food, Nifty Hoops projects nearly 100 percent growth over the next five years.

Peterson Farms Inc.

Peterson Farms Inc. in Shelby is the largest privately owned fruit processor in Michigan. Since 1984, the family-owned group of companies has worked in retail, commercial and foodservice industries. It is made up of two main divisions: Peterson Farm Fresh Inc. and Peterson Farms Inc. Farms Fresh is a state-of-the-art, fresh-cut facility that focuses on apples. The Farms group works specifically with frozen fruits, marketing more than 150 million pounds of frozen fruits annually. It produces 7 million gallons of apple juice and juice concentrates. Its frozen division also processes tart and sweet cherries, blueberries, cling and freestone peaches and Damson plums.

Serra Cheese Co.

Clinton Township
Serra Cheese Co. in Clinton Township manufactures naturally made cheese created without preservatives. Its specialties are Italian cheeses such as fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella, baked ricotta, smoked mozzarella, mozzarella, smoked provolone and provolone. But the company also has branched out into unique flavors such as sundried tomato cheese, pistachio cheese, hot red pepper cheese and peppercorn cheese. It distributes its products through food stores, bakeries and restaurants, working through specialty food distributors to increase its share of the Southeastern Michigan market.

Spicer Orchards

Spicer Orchards in Fenton is a five-generation family business. Started by the Spicer family, its first generation would take its fruit into downtown Detroit by horse and wagon. The present facility was designed after an old Victorian carriage house that once stood on the farm. The building has 10,000 bushel storage, sorting machine, donut shop, bakery, cider mill, winery and sales room. The orchard, farm market and cider mill offers families a variety of fruits to try, including strawberries, raspberries, cherries, pumpkins, blueberries, plums, apples, peaches and pears. Children can check out the hayrides, pony rides, face painting and the kids’ corral.

Sweet Potato Sensations

Jeffery and Cassandra Thomas never expected her sweet-potato cookie recipe would change their life, but it did. As a result of Jeffery’s love for the sweet treat, Cassandra started experimenting with other foods using her husband’s favorite food. Soon came sweet potato cheesecake, pie, cake, ice cream, pecan pie, cobber and more. The positive feedback from customers was so strong the couple started Sweet Potato Sensations in 1987 in Detroit. They call the business a “sweet potato lover’s heaven on Earth.” They continue to add new products from sweet to savory, allowing people’s taste buds to determine the company’s next direction, whether it be sweet-potato bread, rolls or candy.

Traffic Jam and Snug

Awaiting one of many esteemed guests at Traffic Jam and Snug Restaurant. Photo by Lawrence McCarter

Traffic Jam and Snug in Detroit is a full-service restaurant featuring Michigan’s first Brew-pub. It has an in-house dairy, making award winning cheese and ice-cream. It also has an in-house bakery, making renowned breads, deserts and pastries. Recently, Traffic Jam added a rooftop garden and year-round greenhouse providing herbs and vegetables for its tea and signature dishes. Traffic Jam has become the catalyst for development projects throughout the neighborhood, beginning with the Blackstone Hotel, and more recently the Beethoven Apartment building, taking previously problematic buildings in the neighborhood and turning them into positive influences. The business is looking forward to 2015 when it will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a gala year-long celebration.


Traverse City
Artisans from across Michigan contribute to the state-themed gift baskets, food choices and gifts available from TraverseGourmet.com. The website, operated by Cile and Norm Plumstead in Empire, can send these unique treats anywhere within the United States, giving families, friends and former residents a taste of everything Michigan has to offer. TraverseGourmet believes strongly in being a sustainable business, so they seek out naturally produced, fair-trade and organic products. They internally focus on earth-friendly packaging and look for vendors that feel the same. The company also donates at least 1 percent of its sales to local environmental organizations, particularly The Michigan Land Use Institute.

Tri City Cheese and Meats

Tri City Cheese and Meats in Kawkawlin distributes a variety of products around the state and Upper Peninsula, including fresh and pre-packaged meats and cheeses. Among the meats it specializes in are beef, pork, chicken, veal and lamb. Its pre-packaged products are bacon, hot dogs, sausage and more. It also is known for its dairy, deli and butcher supplies. Its frozen products vary from pizza to shrimp to chicken fingers. Its commitment to its customers is deep; for example, its sales staff believes in meeting face to face and maintaining at least weekly telephone contact to ensure its orders are accurate and complete.

U.P. Pasties Co.

Traverse City
Few foods are as beloved to Michigan residents as the pasty. And U.P. Pasties Co. has built its business on making its traditional recipe pasties and pot pies. The company started making these savory treats as a family tradition, preparing them as gifts for family and friends during the holidays or just for a warm meal during the summer months in St. Ignace. These days, anyone can try a U.P. Pasties specialty through community events around the state or at one of Michigan’s local farmers markets.

Valentine Distilling Co.

Valentine Distilling Co. in Ferndale handcrafts world-class vodka using old-world distillation techniques. Using a proprietary blend of Michigan Red Wheat, Barley and Corn, Valentine Vodka has become recognized as one of the top Ultra Premium vodkas in the world winning the most prestigious spirits competitions in the world, such as the Gold Medal in the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Produced in a 5,000 square-foot facility in small batches, Valentine Vodka is aptly described as “smooth and creamy with vanilla and a lovely mouth feel; lush rich and dense with a velvety texture; long deep and seamless with an amazingly luscious finish.” Valentine is available in more than 1,800 outlets throughout Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee.

Wilde Thyme Foods

Wilde Thyme Foods in Holland is a partnership between Sue Wilsey and Bill Thomas. Neighbors and friends, they started their business in 2004 by purchasing the recipes for seven soups and nine dips. Their love of good food inspired them to boost their offerings to now more than 30 Simple Soups and Simple Dips. They also added Soup for Two and Simple Mixes to their product array. All of the products created by Wilde Thyme Foods are all-natural and have no added preservatives or MSG. They recently began to offer vegetarian, gluten-free, salt-free, dairy-free soups and a vegan soup. And to ensure the quality of everything they sell, their products are hand packaged one at a time.

Zeeland Farm Services

Aerial shot of the facility at Zeeland Farm Services.

Zeeland Farm Services has more than 60 years of service to the state’s agriculture industry. Its goal is to support and promote Michigan’s agricultural communities and their viability. It provides goods and services in several divisions, including soybean processing, vegetable-oil refining, grain- and feed-ingredient merchandising and transportation services. The company is committed to using renewable energy as it grows its national and international customer base. Recently it acquired two grain-processing facilities capable of processing up to 40 million bushels of grain per year into 110 million gallons of ethanol and 330,000 tons of dry distiller’s grain with solubles. With its expansion, the Zeeland-based company was able to add 120 employees to the operation.


Eric Ersher, Founder & CEO of Zoup!

Zoup! is the leading fast-casual soup concept restaurant that is defining the category with its premium and proprietary soups and other recipes. Zoup’s 44 stores feature a dining experience with 12 always-rotating soup varieties each day. Zoup! has grown its network of franchises to states including Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ontario, Canada. It is scheduled to have 20 new locations within the next few years. Zoup! also has started selling its first product, a gourmet chicken broth, in specialty grocers. With the name “Good, Really Good Chicken Broth,” this healthy broth is so tasty you can eat it straight from its clear jar. The broth will be on shelves in chains such as Hillers and Busch’s around the holidays.