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  • Carol Distel

Bowerman’s Blueberries cultivates sustainability with MAEAP certification


The Bowerman's Blueberries Family

In Michigan, groups like the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) and the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) are helping farmers like Andrew Vantil, an employee of the family-owned farm Bowerman Blueberries adopt sustainability practices that protect the environment, enhance their credibility, and improve their farms.

 

Bowerman Blueberries has been a family-owned farm in Holland, MI since 1954. They provide pre-picked blueberries, locally grown produce and specialty food products at their farm market and pick your own blueberry events during the season. They also manage Bowerman’s on 8th, a cafe and bakery in downtown Holland.

 

 “At Bowerman’s, our goal is to produce the safest and finest blueberries possible, and the MAEAP certification is instrumental in helping us achieve that goal,” said Vantil.

 

MAEAP helps farmers by assessing and addressing environmental risks on their land. These on-farm assessments based on the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPS) help farmers adopt sustainable practices and become certified in areas like farmsteads, crops livestock, forest, wetland and habitat.

 

People might think that MAEAP staff are government employees, but they are local conservation district staff. They are funded by grants which ensure that farmers receive personalized, confidential and free technical assistance allowing them to proactively manage their land while minimizing risks. 

 

MAEAP certification bolsters consumer confidence in Michigan products and opens doors to new business opportunities.

 

“By becoming a MAEAP verified farm, we not only highlight our commitment to sustainability to our customers but also ensure our own longevity. Programs like this play a crucial role in guiding farmers towards industry-recommended practices, resulting in cleaner and safer products,” Vantil shared.

 

“I’ve personally recommended MAEAP to fellow growers, particularly those engaged in direct consumer sales, as it serves to communicate our dedication to sustainability in agriculture by adhering to MAEAP standards. It’s not just about certification, it’s establishing a baseline for the high standards we set on our farm. Every farmer should strive toward sustainable agriculture -- it's a collective responsibility.”

 

Becoming MAEAP certified also provides regulatory assurances, discounts on liability insurance and access to various partnerships and cost-sharing programs.

 

There are four components to the MAEAP verification process:

  • Education.

  • Assessment.

  • Action planning.

  • Verification.

 

While participation in the program is free, farmers may incur costs associated with implementing recommended improvements.

 

“One of the recommendations for Bowerman’s was to update our emergency action plan (EAP),” said Vantil. “Using a template provided by MAEAP and MSU (Michigan State University) we updated our EAP with modern maps, information, and resources. We have since used this updated plan to work with our local fire department on pre-planning for emergencies. MAEAP was very helpful creating site maps, gathering local resource information, as well as assisting with step-by-step plans for specific emergency situations.”

 

MAEAP technicians have access to cost-share funds to help offset implementation expenses such as this. Once verified, farms undergo reverification every five years to ensure continuous compliance and improvement.

 

Farmers interested in learning more about MAEAP or seeking assistance, can reach out to their county Conservations District listed below.


 

MACD has a similar mission related to environmental sustainability to support local farmers. They advocate for the state’s 75 Conservation Districts, which serve as local hubs for natural resource management, and addressing pressing issues like soil erosion, water conservation and climate resilience. As a not-for-profit organization, the MACD provides vital outreach, advocacy and representation for local entities at the state level. To connect with MACD and learn more about how they can support your operation, become a member below.



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