Giving Thanks for the Richness of Michigan

Picture 155Michigan is, economically, the nation’s basket case.

But because of our agricultural diversity, it is incredibly rich in fresh and local food–perhaps not a bread basket, but definitely a healthy food basket. Which–should you ever decide to limit yourself to local ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner–makes it a wonderfully rich state.

Which is just what the friends I share Thanksgiving with and I decided to do.

We came very close to eating all local last year–except for the wine and flour and random oranges. So I suggested we make a concerted effort to buy Michigan this year. With the exception of spices and olive oil and a few items from the vicinity of our out-of-town guest, everything came from MI.

Some of this food is stuff we eat year-round (several of us had a Tantre Farm CSA share this year, Bells Beer is one of the local standards in these parts, and I’ve grown spoiled with Calder’s Dairy butter). Some of this will require some substitutions (while I found local chestnuts last year, I was unable to this year, so will substitute Jerusalem artichoke in the stuffing). And including wine among the local products pushed us to try wines we otherwise wouldn’t have (special thanks to Mary from Everyday Wines, who went out of her way to help me replace the Bowers Harbor Pinot Grigio mr. emptywheel and I tested on Monday night).

Picture 158Among all the other reasons I appreciate Thanksgiving, taking the opportunity to recognize local farmers and food producers is one of them. Even in a time when the state is suffering, they sure exemplify the richness of Michigan.

Here’s what we’ll be eating–all of which should be marked in the map above–along with some of the local shops that stock these products:

Harnois heritage turkey, Whitmore Lake, MI

Michigan bacon, from Sparrow Meat Market

Stock from Ernst Farm chicken, Ann Arbor, MI

Tantre Farm veggies and pumpkin, Chelsea, MI

Needle Lane Farm Jerusalem artichokes, Tipton, MI

Picture 159Shetlers Farm potatoes, Homer, MI

Garden Works Organic Farm onions, Ann Arbor, MI

Kapnick Orchards apples, Britton, MI

Cranberries, Grass Lake, MI from People’s Food Co-Op

Wasem’s Fruit Farm rhubarb, Milan, MI

Zingerman’s Creamery cheese, Ann Arbor, MI

Calder Dairy butter and ice cream, Lincoln Park, MI

Guernsey Dairy milk and cream, Northville, MI

Sunrise Poultry Eggs, Homer, MI

Pioneer Sugar (beet sugar) from “the Thumb,” MI

Westwind Milling Company flour, Linden, MI, from By the Pound

JK Scrumpy’s organic hard cider from Almar Orchards, Flushing MI

Bells Brewery beer, Kalamazoo, MI

Michigan wine from Everyday Wines:

With other home-grown veggies, sage, thyme, home made bread and sourdough starter, and vinegar

I may update this later with pictures–or maybe to proselytize about putting bacon on your turkey. Until then, may you all have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

57 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Tasty wine selection there…have not tried a Michigan-grown cabernet franc, will have to run down to the wine shop and ask if they have that one.

    Nice job with going local, more possible here than other states given the diversity of food here. Only thing you need is some pickles and peppers from our Michigan pickle king; I’ll have to work on that one for next feast.

      • danahoule says:

        I’m a much of a “homer” about Michigan stuff as you can find, but I’ve never liked any Michigan wine I tasted. Maybe it’s gotten much better in the last few years.

    • posaune says:

      who woulda think? vineyards in Leelanau?
      ok, it’s been 25 yrs since I lived in MI.
      and those Leeland kids creamed us in basketball.

    • scribe says:

      Where I’m at, they have radio ads in heavy rotation telling how you can make extra money by coming to the advertiser’s offices and selling them your blood plasma.

      Top that level of destitution, BMAz!

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, here’s the key in that story:

      “Michigan is different from all the other states,” he said. “It went into a recession in 2001 and never emerged.”

      Our budget woes are not as bad–on paper–as CA. But they’ve been going on since the last of the Engler tax cuts went into effect in 2002.

      And our job losses are not as bad–during this receession–as AZ. But they’ve been going on a lot longer. It’s the difference between globalization and bubbles, both disastrous, but disastrous in different ways.

      • bmaz says:

        Agreed. There is big suck here though. In a state where the whole economy is based on construction and tourism, in a time when there is no building and nobody’s got money to travel, it is not good. We are strictly a function of the overall economy though; if it comes back, we will be fine again. Michigan has much deeper problems I am afraid..

        • emptywheel says:

          I actually don’t buy that MI has much deeper problems.

          MI’s lifestyle is sustainable. Plus, up until this year, we’ve invested in education. And we’ve been shifting focus for the last 5 years, with investments that are going to start paying off in a few years.

          AZ’s lifestyle is not sustainable. And I’m not sure AZ has started figuring out what’s going to replace the bubble.

          • bmaz says:

            Flip flopper! Make up yer mind – we are either as screwed as The Big Mitten or we are not – you can’t have it both ways! Heh heh, I knew I could elicit that response from you (kind of like you knew I would go all Ted Thompson). Tee hee!

          • bobschacht says:

            AZ’s lifestyle is not sustainable. And I’m not sure AZ has started figuring out what’s going to replace the bubble.

            Interesting point. I think AZ has a larger % of seniors in retirement. What the economic crash has done to their retirement portfolios may have significantly different ripple effects here in AZ than in MI. Probably lots of seniors with mortgages that are now upside-down– not only in the Phoenix metro area, but in the Prescott area. There are thousands of folks there, too, with RVs. I’ll bet the RV market is tanking now, and one of two things are happening: People are trying to sell their houses in order to live full time in their RVs, or selling their RVs in order to make their mortgage payments.

            I am envious at your sumptuous feast with local produce. You must be investing a lot of your time cooking! Have fun with all that!

            –and I appreciate the reminder about the food banks. I will find some spare greenbacks to send to them.

            Bob in AZ/NM

            • scribe says:

              Without being too cynical, it stands to reason that as to the AZ seniors affected by the bubble will not necessarily suffer too badly financially so long as they can keep up their payments.

              I know, big “if”.

              But,the point is, if their house is underwater when they die, the people who take the bath are those who take under their estate plans.

              • bmaz says:

                Well, unless they die in the next year or two, I doubt they will be that underwater. Property values are sown here, but not as much as you would think, and they will recover I think. The real problem is more deep seated. The tourism will rebound just fine, but the reliance on ever more construction cannot maintain. Most of all, the long term problem is water. Unless the way it is used, and the way people live here, including very notably all the people that have moved here from the midwest and east, and who think everything ought to be green lawns, golf courses and lush, do not change their ways and adapt to a desert lifestyle, we will shrivel and die from a lack of water. The powers that be here need to figure this out too and quit relying on growth that will place ever more demands on the water. Those are the real issues here in my opinion. the property values will be fine because of the climate if, and only if, we can be brighter on the deep set issues of growth and water.

      • emptywheel says:

        Yeah, well, the TradMed also doesn’t like to think of the rest of the economy–particularly TradMed–as FUBAR as the auto industry, just 10 years behind.

        Michigan: we’re the canary in the coal mine.

        But we’ve got local cranberries and just about everything else you need to throw a big feast.

        • scribe says:

          Relative to Michigan and economics, I think a productive comparison could be made to the Western PA area. The steel industry went into the crapper a generation ago and the area, particularly Pittsburgh, put a lot of their industrial development, so to speak, into education and healthcare, with another emphasis in developing techies (see, e.g., Carnegie Mellon being one of the leading computer science schools). When everyone was at YearlyKos and gawking (rightly) at the steel mill and steel being made, what seemed to have been forgotten is that there is no steel made within the city limits of Pittsburgh anymore.

          Zero. That mill was outside the city limits.

          The Homestead Works?

          With the exception of the smokestacks, left standing as a memorial, the place was leveled. A good part of it is now the parking lot of a Walmart, a shopping center, and associated consumer businesses.

          The biggest employers in Pittsburgh now are the universities and the health care centers.

          While it never has been great in Pgh, they also never suffered through the bubbles, particularly the real estate bubble.

          Michigan could draw some instructive lessons.

          • Rayne says:

            Michigan’s been focusing on education and health care for some time now. Health care, in fact, has been the largest industry in the state for several years, larger than the auto industry.

            University centers have attracted considerable investment from public and private sectors as engines for growth, too, although I personally think there’s room for more improvement. The lion’s share of investment goes to our own research triangle in lower Michigan, between Michigan State-Lansing, Wayne State-Detroit and UofM-Ann Arbor; however there are schools in the upper peninsula which deserve similar attention and bring unique programs to the table. Michigan Tech in Houghton has been focusing on sustainability through its environmental science program, as just one example, with plant biotechnology and remote environmental sensing minors as subsets. Definitely deserves more attention as a possible economic engine.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not sure, but I think the Merlot wasn’t made in MI. Besides, the store I got it at–the only one I’ve seen it at–isn’t going to give me the service that Mary gave me.

  2. MadDog says:

    You’re supposed to eat the turkey? Oh no!

    Mr. T: Go Lions?

    MD: Dude, I don’t know how to tell you this. You better have another brewski.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Updated with pics of the chickens at Harnois (suffice it to say I’ll have to go back earlier next year to get pics of the turkeys) and Kapnick’s apples at the Farmer’s market.

  4. timbo says:

    I’ll give thanks for your analysis and reporting today…may your toasts be boastful and accurate…sobering if not precisely sober!

    All the best on this Thanksgiving to the FDL/Wheeler crowd!


    • scribe says:

      But, hey, if you stay on Fox, you’ll get figure skating with Nancy Kerrigan and others.

      What more could you possibly want?

      Besides, my duck has another almost 2 hours in the oven to go.

      • Petrocelli says:

        Out West in the Prairies, they heat half a Barrel of Oil over a fierce Fire, stick the Meat with a Pitchfork and Broil it in the Super-hot Oil … which gets done in short order.

        The rest of time is used productively … downing Kegs of Beer; Whiskey, when it gets colder.

    • bmaz says:

      Right back at ya, thanks to you, Skdadl, Quebecosis and all your fellow Canucks – and everybody here – none of it works without all of you. Seriously.

    • skdadl says:

      I’m just sitting here, eating my virtuous Spartan bowl of lentil soup (ok: there’s some bacon in it), talking to myself … but I’m not bitter. I’m thinking that I’m grateful for … I’m grateful for … well, I would be grateful for Petro, except even he has abandoned me, off to barbeque in empathy with teh Merkin cousins.

      I’m grateful for … this place! So much! So grateful, to EW and bmaz and all the wonderful people who come here to do detective work together in such a civilized way. I can’t contribute anything specialized, but I read almost everything and it helps me more than y’all can know with my own work and thinking. Have a fine excess, and thank you all — even you, Petro. *wink*

  5. danahoule says:

    Ah, I really miss Guernsey milk. Not only does it taste better, it also keeps fresh longer than the more industrialized milk.

    As for a wider view, Michigan has the second most diverse assortment of crops of any state in the country, after only California. That’s great, but it also highlights how Michigan generally gets hosed by US ag policy, because almost all federal subsidies go to the major row crops (corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton), rice and cane sugar. Not only does this policy distort world food prices and availability and facilitate bad eating habits (such as putting corn syrup in just about everything), it also means that farmers in Michigan and other states that grow more niche crops as well as a lot of fruits, vegetables and anything outside the major subsidized crops have a much harder time maintaining stability or surviving down times.

    Yet another way in which Michigan could be helped by changes in federal policy, in this case by moving to a better agricultural policy.

    • Rayne says:

      There could be some benefits indirectly to Michigan if the current administration was more aggressive about water management — as in not funding diversion for uses in areas where it’s used to support unsustainable crops. Demand for Michigan’s pickles could increase if the acreage grown elsewhere in low rain regions was to decrease.

      RE: wines — they are improving steadily, although I still think the best Michigan wines are those which are traditionally suited to the climate. Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers are pretty damned good, as are eiswein (ice wine); they hold their own with those produced in Washington State/Oregon and Ontario.

  6. klynn says:

    Happy Thanksgiving EW and all. Our meal is done. Our tummies are satisfied. Our taste buds are still dancing.

  7. Phoenix Woman says:

    EW found some good flour! Faboo!

    I was going to suggest Pillsbury or Gold Medal as a last resort when you were in town, but I thought they might be a bit too commercial for what you wanted.

  8. klynn says:

    In another part of the world it is not a day to eat turkey but to talk turkey.

    At the Iraq inquiry this morning, Sir Christopher Meyer has let so many cats out of the bag that it is hard to keep up with them all. He has confirmed that by the time Tony Blair met George Bush at Crawford, Texas in April 2002, Blair had already agreed to regime change.

  9. tejanarusa says:

    A lovely feast, EW. I’m envious – unfortunately, these last 25 yrs I’m here in Texas, a commodity-growing state. Changing some, true – there is one farm in the area that is a CSA, with a waiting list a mile long.
    That’s because most agriculture around here is wheat and cattle, still.

    A bit farther south, of course, is one of the watermelon capitals of the world, and strawberries in Poteet (just south of San Antonio), but I’m afraid there’s no hope of my ever getting locally-grown cranberries.

    And Thanksgiving, for me, would not be Thanksgiving without cranberries. Even tho’ I’m the only one who at them at holiday dinners w/ my ex-in-laws.

    I, too, btw, am very grateful for the community here at fdl. Who’d have thought a blog seemingly so focussed on political action could be so personal? Hope all y’all had a lovely day. I did.
    And now I’m going to go eat my dessert.

  10. randiego says:

    Okay, I want to know about the Michigan bacon. We’ve just gotten back from Australia (where the produce was generally superior to what I normally buy here) and the bacon was amazingly good. It seemed to be cut slightly different and was much leaner and flavorful as well.

    MsDiego is ready to move there, for the bacon alone! How’s that MI bacon?

    • skdadl says:

      Here are the different ways of cutting bacon. The wiki tells me that the Australians favour the middle-cut rashers, which have an eye of leaner meat (part of the loin or tenderloin?) along with the streaky belly meat. Our ordinary bacon is streaky tummy cuts, and then there is the much leaner back bacon, which is nice in, eg, eggs benedict.

      You may have to be British to like bacon roasts (joints) or gammon, which is sort of like ham except not really.

      I don’t know what each nation does with the parts of the porker it doesn’t commonly use commercially. Where do the middle-cut rashers go in North America anyway? Good question.

    • emptywheel says:

      The MI bacon is very good. Though my “regular” bacon is thick cut stuff from OH. It’s too thick to put on a turkey, but even mr. ew thinks it’s on a par with Irish Rashers.

  11. alinaustex says:

    okay me and the missus got all of our vittles from WFM’s as a cooked dinnner for four – the free range turkey was an heirloom diestel . The meal was very good . ,and in the interest of the “good not being the enemy of the perfect” we forgave founder John Mackey for being an umreqited liberterian who is against unions , health care reform ( among other progressive causes) . Looking on the plus side- WFM does buy local/ wholeale when possible -and is actively seeking ways to reduce its carbon foot print .

  12. skdadl says:

    O/T: Amy Goodman detained by Canada Border Services Agency on her way to Vancouver.

    Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

    Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

    After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

    “He made it clear by saying, ‘What about the Olympics?'” said Goodman. “And I said, ‘You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'”

    “He said, ‘No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.’ I said, ‘Oh I hadn’t thought of that,'” said Goodman.

    “He said, ‘You’re saying you’re not talking about the Olympics?'”

    “He was clearly incredulous that I wasn’t going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn’t believe me,” Goodman said.

    The CBSA are well known to be arbitrary — they especially enjoy playing censor at the border. Even with court judgements against them, they will continue on their merry censoring way, and our governments never seem to stop them.

  13. fatster says:

    BACON! Due to health reasons, I only buy bacon about twice a year (oh, how I yearn for that third purchase). I always buy Niman bacon, which I get at Trader Joe’s. Don’t know the extent of Niman’s distribution, but hope it’s available near you. They try so hard to do right thing by their products–so much so that they are experiencing financial troubles.

    • skdadl says:

      D’ye know, I suddenly got that, freep?

      I’ve just been trudging through my ‘hood, back from the butcher’s, looking at people’s awnings (’cause I need a new one), and noticing how many people suddenly have the cedar boughs and wreaths and red bows up. And then I see your announcement again, and all at once it makes perfect sense.

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