Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By Jana Miller, Heritage Newspapers
At least two Manchester farms were bestowed a great honor last Wednesday when they had a visit from agricultural leader Kathleen Merrigan. Fusilier Family Farms and Horning Dairy Farm hosted the USDA Deputy Secretary for a tour of their properties just after her Detroit conference.
“She was speaking at a conference in Detroit, and we were contacted to show them around our farm afterward,” Kathy Fusilier said. “We were kind of surprised and honored. It was kind of neat. Apparently somebody heard about us in Washington, D.C.”
Both farms took approximately 30 different people on tours around their farming facilities. The large group had individuals from the USDA, Michigan Farm Bureau, Future Farmers of American, Rep. Mark Schauer’s office, and some county schools.
“It was an interesting afternoon,” Earl Horning said. “There were representatives for all the major commodities in Michigan, like eggs, dairy and sugar, all listening to the things we’ve done.”
The president of the Michigan Farm Bureau was in attendance as well.
“It was pretty interesting,” Fusilier said. “They all seemed to be appreciative of what we’re doing.”
Merrigan was in town in Detroit at the Farm to Cafeteria conference for the USDA’s Farm to School Program. The purpose of the program is to connect elementary, middle and high schools with local farms, the objective being to serve healthy meals in school cafeterias and improve student nutrition.
“We are already selling to schools in Washtenaw, Jackson and Livingston Counties,” Fusilier said. “With this being a Farm to Cafeteria conference, I think they wanted to see a farm that was actually doing that.
“We’ve been selling to schools since about September,” she said. “They just love the stuff and want more. As soon as I get (the produce), they want it.”
While touring the farms, the visit to Manchester’s local farms was an opportunity to discuss some important farming issues, such as unemployment and immigration.
“We talked about a lot of issues,” Fusilier said. “We also talked about large versus small farming and organic versus non-organic farms. Even though what we’re doing works for us, if every farmer was like us and selling at farmers markets and that sort of thing, we would be in trouble. The country needs both. We have to be careful not to regulate one against the other and have to make sure everybody gets protected.”
Fusilier said demonstrations were given to the guests on transplanting, methods, water conservation, the use of plastic to control weeds and insects, farming technologies, and other techniques utilized.
“Technology is very important,” Fusilier said. “We have to keep going with new tools. In the next 20 to 25 years, if we can’t produce more, we’re not going to be able to feed the world.”
The Horning Farms, run by Earl and Diane Horning with son Jeff Horning and wife Lynda, also had conversations about the industry as a whole.
“The urban community doesn’t understand agriculture,” Earl Horning said, “and we were praised for helping explain the farm programs and what we do. Our message to them is that we’re doing our best in taking care of what we do, and people need to recognize that.”
Horning Farms is a dairy operation off Pleasant Lake Road in Manchester, milking 300 cows and raising crops. The family is in its fifth generation of Michigan dairy farmers. Earl is a former Board of Education director and County Land Use Committee member. He and his wife, Diane, have won several awards recently, including one from Michigan State University and one from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.
Earl and Diane’s son, Jeff, manages the farm’s daily operations. His wife, Lynda, is the dairy’s bookkeeper and a county Farm Bureau Rural Education Days co-chair.
Fusilier Family Farms is also a family-owned business and is located on Herman Road in Manchester. Kathy and Mike Fusilier manage the 400-acre properties with help from children Matthew, Brittany, Travis and Chad.