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PHOTO RELEASE: MDARD Director Gary McDowell Tours Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm, Herrick House and Mulberry Café, & Vander Sys Tree Farm near Clare

CLARE, Mich. - Today, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Gary McDowell helped kick-off the holiday season by touring Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm, the Herrick House and Mulberry Café and Vander Sys Tree Farm Nursery near Clare.

“These local businesses showcase just how special the holidays can be for Michiganders," said Director McDowell. "During the holiday season, our agritourism industry in Michigan thrives, and where friends and family can make lifelong memories. Whether picking out the perfect Christmas tree or enjoying hot cocoa together, our food and agriculture is the cornerstone of Michigan’s holiday celebrations."

Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm is a working, family-owned reindeer farm business that has been open since 1991, specializing in offering trained reindeer for holiday and specialty events around Michigan. The reindeer have visited hundreds of businesses, schools, and libraries. Rooftop Landing is also known for its Santa Jeep rides through the woods and for serving fresh donuts, caramel apple cider, and hot cocoa while customers can watch candy canes being made in the store. 

Paul Ginelli has been making candy canes and ribbon candy for the past several years. Ginelli comes from a family of candy makers. He learned how to make candy from his grandfather at only 12 years old and proudly continues the family tradition.

The Mulberry Café is in a turn-of-the-century, Civil War-era house in the heart of Clare. Mulberry Café is open seven days a week, specializing in pies and soups.

Vander Sys Tree Farm was established in 1959 and has served the local community for three generations. Vander Sys offers a variety of Christmas trees for purchase, from fraser and balsam fir and even painted trees. The farm also operates a tree lot in Mount Pleasant, selling pre-cut Christmas trees.

Michigan ranks third in the nation for the number of Christmas trees harvested, supplying about 2 million fresh trees – with an annual net value of $30-$40 million – to the national market each year. There are more than 560 Christmas tree farms on a combined 37,000 acres across the state, ranging from large wholesale farms, to choose and cut farms, to small farms with a few acres selling pre-cut trees.

Throughout 2022, Director McDowell is meeting with Michigan's food and agricultural businesses to focus on how they can continue to thrive in Michigan's new economy and how best MDARD can assist their continuous development.