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Agribusiness Rolls with the Pandemic Punches

We consider many segments of our workforce as being essential during the pandemic — health care employees, essential retail workers, state employees, and those who tend to our energy and wastewater needs, to name just a few.

Often overlooked are those in agribusiness, who manage production, protection, sales and marketing of Michigan’s more than 300 agricultural commodities. From dry beans and asparagus to wine and dairy products, these workers are on the front line.

Agriculture is the subject of a virtual conference this month sponsored by the Michigan Agri-Business Association. The conference will focus on impacts of the COVID-19 emergency on Michigan agriculture and the broader agricultural economy, said association President Chuck Lippstreu.

“Farmers and agribusinesses have stepped up this year to continue their essential work while learning, adapting and staying safe,” Lippstreu said. “As a result, they have remained pillars of rural communities across the state during a tough time.”

Audrey Sebolt, associate horticulture and industry relations specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau, said some elements of Michigan’s agriculture might have gotten a boost from the pandemic.

“Michigan’s strawberry U-pick operations this past season experienced the highest volume of customers on record,” Sebolt said. “Families and friends visited strawberry fields seeking fresh, delicious strawberries and entertainment because most events were canceled and venues closed.”

Terry Moore of Moore Orchards in Midland said he wholesaled his apples this year, but the pandemic wasn’t a factor in his decision. He hopes to open to the public again soon.

“We anticipate being able to take friends through the orchards and let them pick again in the future,” Moore said.