Young growers learn about leadership
An upcoming program will focus on labor issues facing fruit growers.
About 40 young northwest Michigan farmers—aged 20 to 40—are taking part in a program called FARM—Farmer Assistance and Resource Management—the goal of which is to train them to be leaders.
The program was funded at nearly $200,000 for two years, in part with a grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program and also with a grant of $47,720 from the Rotary Charities of Traverse City—an unusual charity that came about through good fortune. The local Rotary Club owns property it leased to the Boy Scouts for campgrounds. As it turned out, the property sits on the Niagaran Reef, where oil was discovered in 1974. Since 1977, when Rotary Charities was formed, the charity has dispensed $36 million in grants from 40-percent royalty earnings on six oil wells. The money has supported projects in the five-county Grand Traverse area related to affordable housing, education, environment, culture and recreation, strengthening families, community capacity building, and health.
Tom Paradis, a 39-year-old fruit grower who grows fruit with his father, Glenn, at Northwind Farms in Kewadin, said the FARM group has had some programs useful to him so far, and he is looking forward to more. The group visited the state capital Lansing last year, met people at the Michigan Department of Agriculture, and had a sit-down meeting with seven state legislators from the Grand Traverse area.
At the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, they held a session on how to talk to a camera, featuring a reporter from the local television station, and they’ve had programs on business management and planning, and on farm succession planning, Paradis said.
This year, he’s looking forward to a program on labor issues facing fruit growers and another on understanding more completely the complex federal marketing order that regulates the tart cherry industry. Most fruit growers in that area have at least some tart cherries.
Paradis is the third generation on the farm started by his grandfather, Mitchell, in 1948. The 400-acre farm is mainly in fruit—tart cherries, apples, plums, and, increasingly, sweet cherries—but they also grow field crops, including canola, which is not a traditional field crop.
Paradis is already recognized as a young leader in the fruit industry. A director on the nine-member Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station board, he was elected vice president this winter.