Les Timmer’s southeast Michigan carrot farm on Muck Road near Imlay City is about as pure Michigan as you can get.
Muck Road is named after the loose, rich soil left behind by an ancient lakebed. In the 1800s this natural resource, which is especially good for growing root vegetables, drew many Belgian and Dutch farmers to the area. They began raising produce for rapidly growing cities such as Detroit. Many of their descendants, like third-generation Les Timmer, are still at it.
Today, however, like most of Michigan’s agricultural products, Timmer’s carrots sit side by side in grocery stores with carrots from California and elsewhere. It’s not easy for Timmer’s Michigan carrots to stand out in that global commodity crowd.
That could change, however, because the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is now making the state’s highly successful Pure Michigan logo available for free to farmers and other businesses.
Pure Michigan is one of the strongest destination brands in the world; Forbes magazine has put it in the Top 10 of all time. Now farmers like Timmer can use it to connect with a large and growing contingent of shoppers who prefer to buy Michigan products.
“It’s a very good promotional idea that could go like crazy,” Timmer says. He plans to take the next step of requesting a licensing agreement to use the Pure Michigan logo. “All we’d have to do is talk to our bag supplier and add that to the printing,” he says.
How much Michigan?
The big question that could slow use of Pure Michigan in agriculture, however, is how purely Michigan a product must be to use the logo.
Many Michigan-made products include ingredients from other places, and some products, such as pineapple or potatoes, may be packed for distribution by Michigan companies but are not from Michigan.
That’s why the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which administers the program, is working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to develop criteria. They are working to assure consumers that a significant percentage of the value of a product has been contributed within the state.
Until those criteria are available, the agricultural meaning of the Pure Michigan brand and needed guidance for farmers and food businesses remain up in the marketing air.
Michigan residents and farmers who want to get these criteria moving along can contact MEDC Marketing Director Kelly Wolgamott, firstname.lastname@example.org and Linda Jones of the MDARD business development division, jonesL9@michigan.gov, with carbon copies to state representatives and senators.
Blog also at Michigan Good Food