(Editor’s Note: Old Mission Peninsula resident Lou Santucci sent the following along on behalf of a new group formed in response to the ongoing winery lawsuit and negative attacks on OMP wineries.)
We are an organization of farmers and people who support farmers who want to express our view with regard to the winery issue on the Old Mission Peninsula.
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In our group, we have farmers who grow fruit, flowers and vegetables that are sold throughout the Peninsula and beyond. We are writing this letter as farmers to support the wineries, who are also our fellow farmers, our neighbors and good stewards of the land.
We have been struck by all the negative attacks leveled at the wineries because they are seeking changes to outdated and arguably illegal regulations. Clearly the Township does not want to budge. But one only has to go back a few years to remember that the Township prohibited the wineries from serving food with wine, which was bad public policy and, quite frankly, dangerous. It took the Michigan Liquor Control Commission ordering the Township to change before anything was done.
Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that the wineries are owned by people who live and work on the Peninsula, and many of them grew up here. Do you really think they want to ruin their own nest, so to speak? No, of course not! What they have done for the Peninsula is wonderful, and those who want to deny them the right to grow their business do not appreciate the economic and aesthetic value they have brought to the Peninsula.
The Peninsula is what it is today because of farmers and wineries. We have been blessed with the proper conditions to grow specialty fruit (grapes, cherries and apples), and it is our responsibility to do so in a sustainable manner. Likewise, the politicians must be both supportive of our agricultural opportunities and not hinder our work with arcane and out-of-date regulations.
Like us farmers, wineries farm the land and have given us the wonderful view sheds of acres upon acres of beautiful vineyards to look at. There are plenty of scare stories going around about what the wineries intend to do. Some of us have spoken directly to our neighbor winery owners, and we are convinced they truly will keep the interest of the Peninsula in their consideration.
All farmers, including the wineries, face economic, weather and pest-related challenges. We are constantly trying to find new ways to farm and new products that will help us stay afloat. We wouldn’t expect the wineries to do less.
Let’s support a way forward that allows the wineries to do some of the things they are asking for and some of the things they are clearly allowed to do by state and federal law. And let’s try to find a way to address concerns such as traffic. Let’s not use assumptions and fear mongering to dictate our policies. Let’s base it on real facts and adjust when necessary and legal.
Fifteen or more years ago, township leaders worked with wine growers/winery owners to develop rules to guide sustainable growth in our growing wine business. The rules need to be updated because competition keeps changing. Farmers and wineries are intertwined and must be mutually successful.
A regulatory taking via fiat will create a California-style environment as more city folks move in and farmers become a smaller and smaller minority. Farmers and wineries should have a seat at the table to protect the future of agriculture on the Old Mission Peninsula.
Signed on behalf of all the many farmers and friends who are in our group but were unavailable.
-Protect The Peninsula Farmers LLC, 12602 Center Rd., Traverse City, MI 49686
Louis Santucci, Irene van Harten, Mary Oosterhouse, Werner Kuenis, Ryan Bischoff, Eric Brown, David K. Weatherholt, Tom Petzhold, Dan Fouch, Curt Peterson, Edson Pontes, Ben Bramer, Jennifer Bramer, John Lyons, Gloria Lyons, Marc Santucci, Deborah Santucci, Bern Kroupa, Cheryl Kroupa, Garry Mannor, Bill MacDonald, Mary MacDonald, Tom Scheuerman, Linda Scheuerman, Jeremiah Warren, Molly Stretten, Jeff Miller