March 25 • 08:17 PM

Keep things growing in Michigan

February 25, 2009
It's been rather fun discovering more Michigan-made products. What's even more encouraging is that local growers are producing quality, healthful things we should be putting in our grocery carts more often.

With all the usual diet-related news that crops up in January, it appears the newest buzz word in dropping pounds is fiber. It fills you up faster and longer, often with fewer calories than the same volume of other foods.

Fiber's found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and beans...of course, beans. Michigan leads the nation in production of several dry bean varieties—navy, black and cranberry.

Last month, I attended a women in agriculture seminar at Thumb Works in Marlette. It was a superb four hours that offered a good dose of hope—hope that there are business opportunities in the region's agriculture sector. On the way out the door, we were loaded down with freebies too. That's where the beans came in—a bag each of navy and black dried beans from the Cooperative Elevator Company.

It's nice to have a brand name to look for now. Across the state, they are available at Meijer grocery stores.

Check out their Web site for recipes ranging from the traditional ham and bean soup to bean oat brownie cookies made with navy beans.

The beans are grown in the northern Thumb and Saginaw Valley region. On a drive north in the late summer you might have seen them being harvested. Unlike their soy relatives, the vining types of dry beans are cut and windrowed like hay before going through the combine which is fitted with an air reel to more gently handle the beans.

Speaking of beans, soyfoods deserve a mention as a goodsource of fiber-rich protein. The oil from soybeans is also used in food preparation. Of all the crops grown locally, soybeans comprise the most acres in both Lapeer (40,000) and St. Clair (64,000) counties, according to the 2007 ag census.

I'm sure more revelations about Michigan food will arise but instead of continuing this piecemeal list, I'll refer you to, a really comprehensive Web site that includes a handy Michigan-made grocery list among others.

Just as I'm writing this Monday morning, an email pops into my inbox from Michigan State University entitled 'Study shows 12 percent growth in Michigan's Agri-Food industry.'

I think it's too bad this good news and other ag-related statistics didn't make it into Governor Jennifer Granholm's state of the state address three weeks ago. It's great that officials want to attract new industry to Michigan but what about investing in what's already tried and true and 'growing'—agriculture.

• • • • •

On another note, the following figures were meant to accompany last week's story about the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

The region's top five commodities by sales value:

Lapeer County

1) Grains, oilseeds,

dry beans:

$23 million

2) Milk, dairy products:

$11 million

3) Vegetables, melons,


$10.6 million

4) Cattle and calves:

$8.9 million

5) Nursery, greenhouse,

floriculture, sod:

$5.8 million

Note: Lapeer County ranks 11th in the state for vegetable value.

St. Clair County

1) Grains, oilseeds,

dry beans:

$30 million

2) Nursery, greenhouse,

floriculture, sod:

$4.7 million

3) Vegetables, melons,


$4.6 million

4) Milk, dairy products: $4.4 million

5) Other crops, hay:

$2.5 million

Email Maria at

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