The food and agriculture industry has a special place in my heart. I grew up just north of 21 Mile Road, on the west side of North Avenue, on a piece of property that has been in the family for three generations. At the time, everyone knew everybody in the area, and at the corner of 21 Mile Road and North Avenue, there was only a stop sign. Going west on 21, it was a dirt road. How times have changed with North Avenue adding lanes because of the amount of traffic. It still is a great area to live, it was just a much slower pace back then. I thought that everyone lived next door to their relatives like I did.
I would ride my bike to my grandma’s house to offer up some produce from our garden. In return, I was given candy. Years later, I planted an acre or two of pumpkins that I babied better than most people take care of their house plants. I spent many days rota-tilling, driving a tractor and pulling weeds. Back then, the 50 plus trips bringing water in five-gallon buckets in each hand was my gym membership. I think some gyms took my idea of flipping tractor tires and picking up heavy things and putting them down and turned it into a business plan – just saying.
It is very important to my family that we buy local. I spent 12 years working at Michigan Works! seeing people file for unemployment, and it changed my buying habits. When my wife buys produce from a farmers market, it is coming from just up the road at a local farm. I have an enormous amount of respect for these farmers.
I have been called the “Food Czar” of Macomb County, but my real title is senior economic development specialist. I work with local food and agriculture businesses to retain them and help them grow. I also encourage food and agriculture businesses to move to Macomb County. I’m the connection point between all the different service providers, food events and food networks. I explain available services and offer contacts from financing to packaging, from demographics to food testing, from site selections to grants, from labeling to commercial kitchen space.
The food business is big business for Macomb County and number two in the state of Michigan behind the auto industry. Locally, that includes large food businesses like Big Boy, National Coney Island and Bosco’s Pizza Co. Their taxes support our communities, supply us with amazing foods and hire people right here in your community. The smaller food and agriculture businesses are the ones that really count on you to visit them directly. These are the local businesses that do not sell wholesale or online. They keep their business open because you stop in and buy products that they made for you with love.
There are many options when it comes to food businesses in Macomb County. Here are some options that you should consider when out and about:
I clean my countertops with an all-natural product from Microcide here in Macomb County. This is great business that even NASA was interested in what they were doing. To show you the importance of local businesses, Microcide is currently looking for a chemist from one of the local colleges to intern there.
There are a number of great restaurants locally, but today I had an awesome stuffed burger with pepper jack cheese from Great Fresh Foods in Macomb County. It is an all-natural meat product that takes less than a minute to cook with nothing you can’t pronounce on the back label, and I bought it right at the local Meijer store.
After lunch, I can satisfy my sweet tooth with some chocolates from either Champagne Chocolates, Juliet Chocolates, Morley Candy or chocolate covered pretzels from The Twisted Pretzel. Depending on my mood, I could go with Just Delicious Scones, Ethel’s Edibles gluten-free treats, The Popped Kernel, or Poppin’ Olive popcorn. The choices seem endless with Pink Elephant Cupcakes or Stella Sweets cupcakes, Achatz pie, or it could be Belly Button Cookies from Stahl’s Bakery.
Of course you need to wash all of this tasty goodness down with a hard cider from Blake’s Ciderhouse,wine from Westview Orchards, an award-winning beer from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company or milk from Crooked Creek Farm.
When Governor Snyder declared March to be Michigan Food and Agriculture Month, it only seems fitting that my 44th birthday was the 23rd of this month. I celebrated the day with bagels in the morning and cupcakes from Stella Sweets in the afternoon.
Try a few of the businesses that I mentioned – or others. There are countless food options here in Macomb County. Say “hello” to the owner and thank them for doing what they do. They are motivated, hard-working people who love food like we do. If you own a food or agriculture business and would like to ask me some questions, my contact information is below. Have a great food day!