Transitions in Southwest Michigan fruitproduction

Worosz, M., C. Harris, A. Rudy, M. McCoy, S. Kaplan, and B. Thomas

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2003-09-12 )

Pioneer families in Southwest Michigan (SWMI) commonly cultivated European varieties and/or gathered indigenous fruit for the household.  By the mid-1800s the area was formally recognized as an important location for commercial production. This region, particularly along the coast, benefits from the moderating effects of Lake Michigan which delays autumn frosts, provides heavy winter snows that prevent the ground from freezing, and creates relatively warmer air temperatures.  Receding glaciers left a rolling terrain that permits cool air drainage, reducing the number and severity of damaging frosts, and sandy, loamy, well-drained soils. As a result of the variety of native fruits and berries it is assumed that indigenous insects and diseases already existed. In the last 1800s growers began using various technologies (e.g., agrichemicals, sprayers) to facilitate the yield and quality necessary for both fresh and processing markets.The industry took shape throughout the 1860s and 70s, following the opening of a wholesale market and the extension of both shipping and rail transportation. With the advent of refrigerated rail (mid-1880s) SWMI experienced intense competition from the Pacific Coast. Continued production, even today, is linked to many socio-cultural phenomena including: 1) an appeal to health and wellbeing that influenced overall consumption; 2) the opening of canning companies and food manufacturers, as well as the and development of new foods (e.g., fruit paste used in cereal bars; 3) expanded marketing; and 4) growers’ political activism (e.g., securing state funding for research). Lastly, fruit has been iconized over time and space. At the local level it is celebrated with various forms of agritainment, in the naming of roads and communities, and with seasonal events. For the general public it has become a symbol of agriculture and its production the definition of “ruralness” and “nature.”

Back to meeting | Show |
Sign In