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Lane Stotler of West Central Michigan Research Station- Oceana County

“At the West Central Michigan Research Station, we have 68 acres of fruit, grown for research purposes. This station was built to be a model for new growers and existing growers that are looking to improve their sustainability. We want to be the showpiece farm and lead by example with our actions so any grower can walk on our farm and see what we are doing to better our soils, water, and fruit quality. Our verification means more than just our fantastic-looking sign by the road. We see this as a reminder each day that as growers, our livelihood depends on our crops, our crops depend on our water and soil quality, so each day it is our mission to improve the most valuable assets we have.

The MAEAP program is one of the best programs we have in agriculture. It is a voluntary program and confidential, they are there to help, they never judge you or your farm, they just look for improvements that will make you more successful. It is important as growers that we take advantage of programs like this one because:

  1. We keep our largest assets healthy and thriving and in turn, are more profitable
  2. We as growers can set the bar high, and do not need MANDATORY verifications to be able to farm. It is well worth the time to meet with your local technician and see what improvements can be done on your farm.

Through the process of becoming verified it also helped me get a big head start on Food Safety Audits, and again, it’s confidential so you can ask all the questions you have, comfortably. I was told when I signed up for my food safety audit that “if your farm is MAEAP verified you will have no problem with our audit.”

Purchasers of your commodities will notice your farm is MAEAP verified and have confidence that your vision is a long-term vision just as theirs is. This is one more large step you can do to set your farm ahead of your competition. Customer demand is pushing for a better product and being MAEAP verified is a great way to prove you are doing just that. “

pictured (left to right): Lane Stotler, John Bakker, and Lynda Herremans

-Lane Stotler, West Central Michigan Research Station