CHATHAM, Mich. (WJMN) – Michigan State University’s Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center (UPREC) are celebrating a successful growing season for two farms in the university’s incubator program.
According to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan’s food and agriculture system is a large portion of the state’s workforce and contributes over $100 billion dollars annually to the state’s economy. MSU’s Farm Business Incubator Program provides beginning farmers access to land, equipment, and other resources to start their businesses.
“What we see is a lot of consumers are looking for a different kind of farm,” said James DeDecker, director of MSU’s UPREC. “They want local food systems. They’re looking for a diversity of healthy food products and they want to know their farmer. So it’s an opportunity for folks to kind of capitalize on this local food movement or this new niche in agriculture and start a small farm business in the Upper Peninsula that can feed our local communities and also create a sustainable livelihood for these folks that are farming.”
Kate Debs and Joe Newman are a husband-wife duo who own Mighty Soil Farm. Four years ago, they enrolled in the MSU’s incubator program to get their business off on the right foot. Since then, they have bought their own land in Eben Junction where they will continue selling their produce at local farmer’s markets and grocery stores.
“We had been farming in Vermont and downstate Michigan for a few years and decided we wanted to start our own farm,” said Debs. “But were a little nervous to jump right in go into a much of debt to buy property and infrastructure. The incubator program really appealed to us because we could get our business started and kind of test things out in a really low-risk situation.”
Yooper native Mike Osier just began his business Traunik Farm this year through MSU’s incubator program.
“Part of what the program did was it allowed me to get a jump start on my business plan,” said Osier. “So if I started farming on the land I have at my house, there would have been a couple years of preparation. And what I liked about the farm business incubator program is that was the immediate access to workable ground and of course the facilities here.”
To learn more about MSU extension’s Farm Business Incubator Program, click here.