Food & Drink News

Big Money for Manistee's Douglas Valley

Douglas Valley, the residential community being developed on an historic farm and vineyard in Manistee, which was profiled in the TCBN's June issue, just received some good news: it received a $150,000 grant for business development assistance from the USDA.

"It's wonderful, just wonderful," enthused co-owner Wendy Sturm. The value-added grant – designed to help producers increase the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage – will go toward developing market strategies to increase exposure for the vineyard's organic grape, apple and cherry products. "We'd been working at a grass roots level," says Sturm. The monies will allow them to work with professionals to expand the company's reach.

Beyond what the grant portends for Douglas Valley, is the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. "A team of the owners wrote the grant themselves," says Sturm. "We'd been turned down in 2009 so this time around, we worked and studied and got help – we worked our 'tookuses' off! You don't realize what it takes – we're very grateful and very proud."

FARM nabs

Rotary Grant

After operating on a shoestring for the last year, the Northwest Michigan Young Farmer Leadership Program recently received a $47,720 grant from Rotary Charities. Part of FARM (Farmer Assistance and Resource Management), the program is designed to identify and train young farmers to assume leadership positions, so that agriculture remains an economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally sound industry in the region.

The Program includes a two-year series of educational sessions presenting topics that include effective board membership, changing trends in agriculture, alternative marketing strategies, economics, banking, loans and credit, and national, regional, and international agriculture policy. The program's goal is to create future farmers dedicated to environmental stewardship and community leadership

Ed O'Keefe's Wonderful Wine Invention

Wine is a terrible thing to waste, and Ed O'Keefe is determined to put an end to it. His revolutionary Emerald Wine System is designed to eliminate costly over-pouring, spoilage, theft and expensive and wasteful packaging – to create a way to keep opened wine as fresh one year later as it was the moment it was uncorked. His invention is not only a "green" way of working but will be save substantial labor and cost to wine purveyors.

The Michigan-made invention, a stainless-steel enclosed and refrigerated cabinet that can store eight boxes of wine (the equivalent of 96 bottles), is designed to be programmed in ways that will work for private parties, restaurants, hotels and even cruise ships. The bags O'Keefe has developed are lined with oxygen and microbial inhibitors. That means wine is fresher than an unopened bottle, at all times. A patent pending 2-D bar code reader (also designed by O'Keefe) can both store and monitor information and then upload it to a computer program. It's tamper resistant and can even by augmented by a credit card and driver's license scanner that would discourage underage drinking and over-imbibing as well as providing valuable marketing information.

Also important to O'Keefe: that the system will allow small vineyards with modest productions to have their excellent but often unknown wines featured in upscale restaurants. "It'll be a big boon to local wineries," O'Keefe says, estimating that his system could save wineries as much as 90 percent of their profits. We'll raise a glass to that.

Food Rescue Hits Milestone

This past Memorial Day, Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan, a five-county mobile food rescue organization, hit a landmark of 401,262 pounds of food donated since the groups' inception in October 2008. This accomplishment is a boon to many area food pantries and shelters. According to Advisory Board member Cecil McNally, due to Food Rescue's fresh food contributions, the Father Fred Foundation saved $95,000 in purchasing expenses – money now used to stock shelves with non-perishables and other necessities. Goodwill Industries shared in the abundance and was able to save $45,000 at their Goodwill Inn. Program Director Sharron Zimmerman added that in addition to decreasing the budgetary load of these organizations, "Food Rescue adds fresh food into the equation by providing healthier food options." The next goal: half a million pounds, a number they expect to hit by the end of their fiscal year in September 2010. BN