BY KATHY GIBBONS firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Gov. Rick Snyder honored Old Mission Peninsula wineries for unanimously participating in a voluntary state program that shows they’re minimizing agricultural pollution and complying with environmental regulations.
Snyder on Friday attended a media event at Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery during which the seven established Old Mission wineries — another recently debuted — were honored for being the first wine trail in the state with all of its members achieving Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program verification. Grape growers Lardie Orchards, Manigold Farms, Montana Rusa Farms and Ochs Orchards were also honored for being MAEAP verified.
“It’s really making a statement to say it’s not just about having a place in one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Snyder told the crowd. “It’s about saying how do we protect that? How do we enhance that? And how do we make it productive so we can add value for generations?”
All of the wineries and farmers submitted to a process that includes an educational component, site visits that yield recommendations for improvement if applicable, and implementation of changes when necessary.
“It’s fairly comprehensive,” said Garrett Coggon, Grand Traverse Conservation District MAEAP technician. “It looks at soil conditions, wells, how they handle and store their pesticide and fertilizer products as well as petroleum products.
“It looks at their waste management ... and controlling erosion, minimizing water use and water loss. We also look at any other potential environmental risks.”
Grower and Peninsula Township Supervisor Rob Manigold said earning and keeping MAEAP certification requires constant diligence.
“It’s a little different than when my grandfather had chemicals sitting out with a tarp over them and every Monday you sprayed poison whether it needed it or not,” Manigold said.
Many took advantage of federal grants that pay for a portion of the cost of constructing a dedicated building for handling and containing pesticides. Brys Estate was among them, said owner Walter Brys.
“It’s the right way to do things,” Brys said.
Coggon said about 66 operations in Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties hold one or more MAEAP verifications. That includes three on the Leelanau Peninsula, where Coggon said other wineries are in the process of pursuing verification. In total his office is working with more than 250 area growers to achieve verification.
“A lot of times, a lot of the growers are already doing these things,” said Dan Busby, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development verification specialist in northwest and central Michigan. “MAEAP just comes through and documents and verifies that farmers are following good practices and helping to protect our environment.”
Those attending Friday also heard a preview of a new Pure Michigan ad that focuses on the state’s wine industry.
Record-Eagle staff writer Brian McGillivary contributed to this article.