TRAVERSE CITY — In the northwest region of Michigan’s lower peninsula a unique partnership exists between Michigan State University and the local fruit industry.
This partnership is facilitated through the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Leelanau County. The NWMHRC is unlike the three other Michigan State University fruit research centers in that it was purchased and is owned by the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Foundation — a foundation comprised of elected board members who represent the research needs of the fruit industry in northwest Michigan.
The Foundation was formed in March 1978 after northwest Michigan fruit growers recognized the need for research to help maintain a viable cherry industry in Michigan. Dr. Charles D. Kesner, the local District Extension Horticultural Agent at the time, played a key role. Research experiments facilitated by Dr. Kesner on irrigation, fruit tree training and pruning systems, mechanical harvesting, and pest management were highly supported among local fruit growers and were the driving factor for establishing a research station in northwest Michigan.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the NWMHRC, which opened for operation in September 1979. Remarkably, the Foundation raised $350,000 in less than a year from fruit growers, processors, equipment and supply companies, financial institutions, and others to purchase farmland and infrastructure for the NWMHRC. An additional $150,000 was donated in cash and in-kind items in the next two years. These initial funds, as well as donations received over the last three decades, have supported the purchase of the 100 acres on which the NWMHRC is situated, an office building with a conference room and research laboratory, and several large storage buildings.
Since its opening, the NWMHRC’s mission has been to work to create and expand knowledge through cutting-edge research on cherries and other fruits and to disseminate state-of-the-art information to the Michigan fruit industry and the public. Michigan State University Extension, AgBioResearch, and the NWMHRC work towards achieving this mission by conducting research experiments, providing educational programming for fruit growers, and by hosting events such as the Cherry Connection, an event organized to educate the public on local fruit production.