Skip to main content

Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development Grants $125,000 Local Companies for Increased Production, Facilities Improvements and 68 New Jobs

Investments in small businesses in Shelby Township & Whitmore Lake

LANSING, Mich. - Today, during its regularly scheduled meeting, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development voted to approve $125,000 in grants to two Michigan businesses $125,000. These funds will allow these companies to increase production space, expand product availability, and create 68 new good-paying jobs. The grants were awarded to Ethel’s Baking Company and Pop Daddy Popcorn.

"It's critical to Michigan's economic success that we maintain a strong focus on advancing and investing in business development within our food and agriculture industries," said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. "Investments like the ones going to Ethel's Baking Company and Pop Daddy Popcorn show Michigan is the place to be when it comes to food and agriculture."

Ethel’s Baking Company is a premium producer of gluten-free dessert sold in the fresh bakery sections of more than 2000 stores in Michigan and across the nation. Founded in 2011, the company’s debut as a local food spurred on a business and brand found in local, regional, and nationally known retailers such as Meijer, Whole Foods, Safeway, Fresh Thyme, Wegman’s, The Fresh Market, and locally at Plum Market, Fresh Farms, Village Market, Busch’s, Nino’s, and more. Growth over the last decade has meant expanding our production space.

This $60,000 investment will allow Ethel’s to purchase additional equipment and machinery to increase baking capacity to meet the increased demand within Michigan and throughout the country as well as add a new product line. Through expanding production to meet increased demand, Ethel’s will be able to hire five new team members.   

“The addition of this equipment is so exciting for us! It helps take our production from a minute-per-pan to PANS-per-minute! We could not meet our growth opportunities without this next step and this grant from MDARD,” said Jill Bommarito, Founder/CEO.

Pop Daddy Popcorn started in a family home kitchen popping Ruby Red Popcorn Kernels from Ann Arbor. The homemade popcorn became so popular with friends and family that in 2010, the Safara family started a small business and sold the popcorn at farmers’ markets and local street fairs in eastern and southeast Michigan. 

Pop Daddy Popcorn grew and, in 2016, grew into its current facility in Whitmore Lake, which houses 4,550 square feet of production space. Expanding in and on that site, the company currently operates out of three buildings on the Whitmore Lake campus, producing not only popcorn but seasoned pretzels sold across the U.S. and Canada in 9,000 retail locations.

This $65,000 investment will allow Pop Daddy Popcorn to add capacity and efficiency as it grows and keeps up with consumer demand. They will add manufacturing equipment to upgrade the current production system. These funds will allow Pop Daddy to increase its capacity three times the current system – creating 62 new high-paying, less laborious jobs.  

"We are grateful to the State of Michigan and MDARD for investing in our continued growth and expansion. This grant will help us add automation to our facility and become more efficient, allowing us to better compete with much larger companies in the snack food industry,” said Mark Sarafa, Founder/Owner.

The Food and Agriculture Investment Program provides financial support for food and agriculture projects that help expand food and agriculture processing to enable growth in the industry and Michigan's economy. Projects are selected based on their impact to the overall agriculture industry and their impact to food and agriculture growth and investment in Michigan.

For more information about MDARD grants, visit