National organization visits Michigan, Jollay Orchards

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By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

COLOMA – Michigan is known for the diverse amount of crops it produces.

This was one of the reasons representatives from American Agri-Women hit the road for Michigan as part of its Drive Across America campaign.

The campaign, with stops Friday in Southwest Michigan, was a way to celebrate the organization’s 40 years of existence.

Sue McCrum and Doris Mold, president and first vice president for AAW, have spent the last three weeks driving to different affiliates of the national organization, talking to local farmers and making memories along the way.

McCrum told attendees at Jollay Orchards Farm Market in Coloma Township that it was a good time to let the public know where the country’s food and fiber comes from.

“We have never done this before,” she said. “We are harvesting our past. History is important, but we need to move forward. We plan on traveling to California, zigzagging back and forth into Texas and heading back through Maine.”

The duo has already worked its way through North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana. The next stop is Illinois.

They will finish the drive at the national convention in Maine on Nov. 1.

A planned tour for visiting members of American Agri-Women began at Jollay Orchards Farm Market on Friday in Coloma Township. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

A planned tour for visiting members of American Agri-Women began at Jollay Orchards Farm Market on Friday in Coloma Township. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Mold referred to Michigan as the Garden of Eden when it came to the state’s agriculture.

“There were fruits and vegetables in all the other states we visited, but this is really kind of a premiere location for everything,” Mold said. “It’s nice to see some diversity in Michigan. We had just come from a state that is just known for its corn and soybeans.”

AAW is the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women with 56 affiliate organizations and more than 40,000 members scattered throughout the country. The group was formed to advocate women’s agriculture and affordable food, fiber and fuel supply.

Michigan Agri-Women President Kim Schmuhl has a farm in Coloma and said she was ecstatic when she learned the two women would come through her neck of the woods.

“We just wanted to give them a showcase of what the Michigan fruit belt is all about,” she said. “We came up with this schedule based on what we have in production that they can see. If they would have come in November we wouldn’t have much to show them.”

The day’s tour included affiliates Jollay Orchards and Contessa Wine Cellars in Coloma Township, Nye’s Apple Barn in St. Joseph Township, strawberry fields in Hartford and some of the greenhouses in the area.

There was also a welcome ceremony Thursday night when the two voyagers arrived in Southwest Michigan.

Michigan Agri-Women was actually the founder of the national organization, Schmuhl said.

“It began in Michigan, so its nice to have them come here and see where it all began,” she said. “We still have some ladies that were here when it first began. It’s so important to our industry just to get more women involved.

“We need to have voices and what better voice to have than a woman on the farm.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 20, 2015)

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