The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development officially approved Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants for two state food and agriculture projects during their November meeting. The grants are intended to help grow companies focused on consumer-demand driven, value-add Michigan products.
“When the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund was established, we knew it could be used to have an impact on jobs and communities in every corner of our state,” said Gordon Wenk, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “So, in addition to supporting great projects like Dutch Treat Foods in Zeeland, we’re also able to help propel businesses in places like Skandia, Michigan. Not many business grant programs have that kind of range and flexibility.”
Liberty Farms and Flour Mill LLC, of Skandia, Michigan, will receive a $40,000 performance-based grant to support their ramp-up and growth of a flour milling operation in the Upper Peninsula. The company is working to develop a 1,600-square-foot building to house a grain mill, sifter, and bagging line to utilize UP-grown food-grade grains.
The project will lead to the creation of three new jobs and will require an overall investment of $448,000. Once fully operational, the facility is expected to mill approximately 685,000 pounds of food-grade grain per year. Grain will be sourced from UP farmers and will provide a local milling operation, saving significant transportation costs as grain is typically sent to Minnesota for processing into flour.
The project will add value to UP-grown products, while creating jobs and investment in the UP. The final milled flour will be sold wholesale into local and regional markets. The company has also received support for this project from Accelerate UP, a nonprofit business development organization funded by Eagle Mine that provides free business coaching within Marquette County to assist business development growth outside of the mine.
“We are excited to support the growth of these two food and agriculture companies as they invest and grow here in Michigan,” said Peter Anastor, Director of MDARD’s Agriculture Development Division. “Liberty Farms and Flour Mill will be the first project in the Upper Peninsula to receive a Food and Agriculture Fund grant, and we are proud to be able to support value-added processing of Michigan grown products that will provide a significant impact to our local and regional food economy.”
Dutch Treat Foods, of Zeeland, Michigan, will receive a $60,000 performance-based grant to help modernize equipment and accelerate the growth of their company. The company has been manufacturing fresh food products—including deli salads, baked goods, snack dips and fresh grab-and-go items—for more than 30 years.
They outgrew their existing building and recently expanded to 20,500 square feet. This project will include the purchase of $255,000 of new machinery and equipment, which will support their future growth and ensure efficient operations and an increase in their product output. The project is expected to create three new full-time jobs.
Dutch Treat Foods is a unique player within the food processing industry, as it can manufacture and process a variety of products within the private label space for mid-sized grocery retailers and food service chains. The company has also received support from Lakeshore Advantage and Zeeland Township, who approved property tax abatement for the project.
“We greatly appreciate the assistance we have received from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development throughout this process," said Scott Brookens, president of Dutch Treat Foods. "With this grant, we are excited to be a partner with MDARD in further supporting the Michigan agriculture industry.”
"We are proud to be home to Dutch Treat Foods and the delicious salads and other food they make in our region," said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. "We worked alongside the company to support their expansion by connecting them with local and statewide resources, including MDARD, to grow right here in West Michigan."
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.