Johnson Farms apple orchard on
Johnson Farms apple orchard on "The Forty," corner of Peninsula Drive and Kroupa Road | Jane Boursaw Photo
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At their Dec. 13, 2022 meeting, the Peninsula Township Board will consider approving a Farm Processing Facilities Ordinance that has been in the works for the past few years. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the Township Hall. As always, there will be time for public comment.

Township Planner Jenn Cram notes that the primary goals for the proposed ordinance are to 1) update the ordinance so that it’s legally defensible based on issues raised in the lawsuit filed by the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) against the Township; and 2) create an ordinance that is equitable and even-handed for all agricultural operators on the Old Mission Peninsula, including those who grow and process lavender, honeycrisp apples, cherries, grapes, other fruits and vegetables and so on.

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Read the draft of the Farm Processing Facilities ordinance that the Township Board is considering for approval here. Changes from previous versions are marked in red.

However, some Peninsula Township farmers are opposed to the ordinance, calling it over-restrictive and anti-farmer. In a letter that I received this week from a group of farmers, they note, “This proposed ordinance does NOT represent what farmers need and want, UNLESS the intent is to grow houses, not fruit, vegetables or other crops. It will not help to keep farmland in active agriculture on Old Mission.”

Here is the full text of the letter, which includes the farmers who signed it at the bottom.

Enough is Enough

The undersigned farmers, representing approximately 4,800 acres of farmland on the Old Mission Peninsula, are not supporters of or represented by Protect the Peninsula, a.k.a. PTP. We are farm stand owners, fruit buyers, processors, and growers of apples, cherries, grapes, hay and vegetables.

After several fits and starts, the Township is poised to adopt an unnecessary, over-restrictive processing ordinance. The ordinance is anti-farmer. The farmer has NOT been represented, regardless of the Township’s claim that there is a citizens’ agricultural committee.

This proposed ordinance does NOT represent what farmers need and want, UNLESS the intent is to grow houses, not fruits, vegetables or other crops. It will not help to keep farmland in active agriculture on the Old Mission Peninsula.

If the Township Board proceeds with this ordinance, strong revisions to the future land use plans need to reflect far more residential zoning with higher density. In other words, houses will grow, not cherries, apples, grapes, vegetables, or field crops.

We do not see how the Township, in good conscience, can move forward on this proposal, given the overwhelming opposition from nearly every farmer in Peninsula Township.

Bern and Cheryl Kroupa, Old Mission Fruit Co., LLC, Old Mission Receiving, LLC; Weatherholt Farms; Wendy Warren, Warren Orchards; Old Mission Maple, LLC; Edmondson Orchards; Ben and Jen Bramer, Agrivine, Inc.; Raymond Fouch Orchards; Montaña Rusa Farms; Robert and Kris Mampe; Daniel Fouch Orchards; Gore Ridge Orchards, Inc.; Leonard and Eddie Ligon; Marc and Deborah Santucci; Montague Estate Vineyard; Marie and Jay Hooper; Lou Santucci; Irene Van Harten; Walter Knysz, Family Orchards LLC; John Lyon, Mary Lyon, Island View Orchards; Martin Lagina, Olivia Lagina, Croft, LLC, Villa Mari, LLC; Mapleton Farms, LLC; Ursa Farms, LLC; KLM Farms, LLC; Chris and Angie Baldyga, Two Lads, LLC; Jed and Dawn Hemming, Hemming’s Way Fruit Company; Alice and John Burbank; Werner and Margrit Kuehnis, Island View Vineyard; Edson Pontes; Ochs Orchards, LLC; Barry O’Brien, O’Brien Vineyards; Mark Ladley; Garry Mannor; Tim and Laurie Holman, Jack and Georgia Holman, Holman Orchards; Cherry Ridge; Cory and Elise Holman, Cory Holman’s Pumpkin Patch; Carter and Amy Oosterhouse, Todd and Caroline Oosterhouse, Bonobo Winery, Oosterhouse Vineyards; DSO Industries; Jeff and Regan Goodman; Bruce and Terry Hooper, Hooper’s Farm Gardens; Jeff Miller and Molly Stretten, Devil’s Dive Vineyard; Justan Helton, Coldwater Farms; Chateau Chantal; Larry and Sandy Tiefenbach, Lone Silo Vineyard; Tim Quinn and Michelle Keith, Old Mission Creek, LLC; Eric Brown; Cimmaron Farms; Randy and Linda Williamson; Gifford Way Orchards; Jim and Fran Krupka; Bill and Margaret MacDonald, MacDonald Vineyard; Dale and Lynne Boersema; Fred Dohm, Twin Maples Farm; John DiLorenzo, Stonewall Vineyard; Kroupa’s Cherries & A View; George Shambaugh; Walter and Eileen Brys, Patrick Brys and Erick Outcalt, Brys Winery, LLC, Brys Secret Garden, LLC; Azmi & Kathryn Elmasri; Mike McMaster; Spencer and Erica Stegenga, Linda Stegenga, Bowers Harbor Vineyards; Stonehouse Vineyard; Bob and Jill Urtel; Ten Hands Vineyard; Tom and Claudine Petzold; Nicholas Farm & Vineyards, LLC; Eddie and Allison O’Keefe, Chateau Grand Traverse, Ltd.; Old Mission Vineyards, LLC; Sean O’Keefe; Bruce and Cathleen Hawthorne, Hawthorne Vineyards; Jeff Manigold; McKinley Hill Estate; RJF Sports, LLC; Robert and Sherri Fenton; John and Sarah Kroupa, Kroupa Farms, LLC; Leorie Vineyards; Black Star Farms Old Mission; Mario and Mary Ann Tabone, Tabone Orchards; Mario A. Tabone, Tabone Vineyards, LLC; Bruce Anderson; Bluff View Farms; Luke and Faye Pickleman; Misfits Vineyards; Tom and Linda Scheuerman, Seventh Hill Farm, LLC; Cristin and Brian Hosme; Peterson Farms, Inc., largest processors of cherries and apples in Michigan, in support of their growers; and many friends…

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13 COMMENTS

  1. This letter signed by nearly every farmer on old mission gives the lie to the claim that the farmers are protected by the proposed ordinance.

    • Yes and to add to the misery of Twp government: At the 11-21-22 Planning Commission meeting with regard to Farm Processing our Twp Planner says, ” So there are additional changes that make the zoning ordinance more legally defensible based on the issue we are facing on the winery lawsuit. And so I am making some final tweeks to that on some input we received during closed session.” What? Per Michigan Zoning and Enabling Act the Planner cannot directly make proposed changes to a zoning code. It has to come through the Planning Commission. What is moving forward is illegal. It is simple to look up Michigan Zoning Enabling act of 2006. The process is simply laid out. Our local government is not following state law and if they pass this ordinance next week it will be totally open to legal challenge. We need responsible government that follows the rules. Thanks, Curt Peterson

  2. Oh my!
    What else to say in response to the proposed Fram Processing Facilities ordinance which rather blatantly attacks open space agricultural uses on the peninsula. What a tangled web we weave weave when at first we practice to deceive the law. In much of the rest of the world OMP’s agricultural uses would be viewed as the Gold Standard of sustainable open space uses. They would be encouraged and supported, not viewed with hostility and strangled. The unnecessary restrictiveness of cooperative facilities is in direct reaction to the Township’s unlawful conduct as to the wineries. Now the same people who have potentially exposed us to an uncapped legal liability to the wineries are doubling down out of what, spite? To be sneaky their ordinance uses “apple” rather than “grape” in its example. Really? This all makes little sense. If OMP’s leadership isn’t smart enough to realize it has a wonderful opportunity to support and sustain rather than restrict its agricultural uses I’m afraid they are beyond redemption. Restricting agriculture will result in more high density residential projects such as “The 81.” The township should be focused more on increasing minimum lot sizes and subdivision setbacks and screening from adjacent roadways than on choking off these agri-facilities. As long as they are sustainable they are the answer to our growth tensions, not the problem. Who trusts the local planners after getting womped by WOMP? Supporting this ordinance completely misses the gift from the gods that sustainable agricultural uses represent to OMP. Support and encourage these uses, don’t choke them to death.

  3. I’m assuming we should attend that meeting to show support for our valued farmers. I’m also assuming the signatories will be there.
    The Township would be smart to move this meeting to the Catholic Church. The old Twp Hall will never hold everyone.

  4. Dear Jane, Somehow my subscription doesn’t go through. I only saw your edition about Tuesday’s meeting because someone posted it on Nextdoor. We definitely intend to be there. I was surprised to not see Dean and Laura’s names. Were they in Italy when the letter went around? The Township should move this meeting to the Catholic Church. They’re being short sighted not doing it in advance. Barb Hansen

  5. Barb,

    I plan to speak via telephone if they let me, otherwise I will have someone read my statement. I am out of town for the winter.

    Most of the farmers will not be there. They signed the letter and feel that is sufficient for them to express their viewpoint. They do not feel a three minute statement with no give and take is productive. I have been at some meetings where the treatment of speakers is rude or hostile. They don’t need that.

    The township officials know full well that this is not an ordinance that has the support of the farmers. That’s all they need to know and they should scrap it.

    This whole thing was aimed at the wineries plain and simple. It is not helpful to the farmers at all.
    For example, how does making the acreage requirements greater help the farmer. There is so much wrong with this ordinance from a farmers perspective that has been pointed out in the past. They never ask a question. They just sit there, stare at you and then vote against what you just pointed out.

    • After having served on a downstate School Board for 10 years, I would seriously encourage the signatories to attend the meeting. They need to see the constituents who they’re affecting in front of them. Warm bodies make an impression.
      My husband and I will be there.

  6. Good Luck. I attended every meeting all the time I am on my farm April to November, and I can tell you most of the time it is an unpleasant experience. Warm bodies make no impression unless PTP and especially if they oppose the fixed agenda of the town board. They vote in lock step, have behind the door meetings, and I am sure have oodles of conversations in the township office. There are serious conflicts of interest that are ignored and they often do not follow the zoning enabling act.

    I well understand why other farmers would not want to use his or her valuable time to go to these meetings. The letter speaks for itself. There are two lawsuits with regard to their ordinances and probably more to come. No one seems to care that the township could easily settle this lawsuit and save us money. I think they are so dug in they do not know how to climb down.

    Their lawyer is making a bundle off of us, and of course will keep telling them to fight on. And for what? What’s the big deal anyway. All I have heard so far is traffic and noise, all of which can be controlled. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that this does nothing for farmers but put another nail in their coffin.

  7. I’ve been following this some what closely, but admittedly I am totally confused at what this all means at this point (winery lawsuit aside). I don’t think most people oppose a wedding, or selling t-shirts, or food. What most people do oppose is housing developments and the AirBnB type arrangements.

    “This proposed ordinance does NOT represent what farmers need and want”

    So what does the above statement mean to the aforementioned signees? Like what do you need and want? Said another way, what are you not able to do.

  8. Jeff,

    There are so many parts to this.

    The increase in acreage required to have a processing facility hurts the small farmer who would have met the previous acreage and now is out of luck because he doesn’t meet the new requirements.

    It decreases the value of his land because there will be no new wineries under the new rules, and therefore, grape growing is not an alternative. You shoukd know the tart cherry business is dead on the peninsula. The buyers have cut off many of their suppliers and told others market conditions going forward do not look good.
    Apples, too, are being limited.

    The draconian rules for processing facilities pretty much mean they will not be economical. You can’t serve warm food, you can’t have events, outside seating is limited to 50 people even if you have 100 acres. What fool would invest the millions needed for a winery with these nonsensical rules.

    Here is a short summary of my limited statement I will have read tonight.

    It limits the opportunity of farmers to increase the value of their fruit crops via processing. The increased acreage requirements and mandated crop sources for starters will mean the small farmer will not be able to start a processing business with retail sales, which is the highest profit opportunity for one’s crops.

    It will decrease the value of our land by limiting the available productive uses of our land. If no new processing facilities are added to the peninsula, then as the market for tart cherries disappears, as has already started, farmers have to turn to other crops. Buyers for apples have already started limiting their purchases. The land may not be suitable for sweet cherries or apples, which leaves grapes. With the township and PTP creating serious obstacles to new wineries, that crop too may not be available as an alternative. Thus the market price of the land will decrease.

    PDR Land will become fallow and could lead to adverse environmental conditions. If you cannot farm the land or cannot develop it because it is PDR land, then it will become fallow. Development may be the best alternative. Faced with the lack of opportunities for using the land, a farmer’s only recourse would be to sell it for development. The PDR program may not have enough money in the short run to buy all the land on offer.

    New farmers will not be able to establish themselves on the peninsula for the above reasons. The already aging population of the peninsula coupled with moderate cost housing prohibitions in place ensure the already elderly centric population of the peninsula will increase. The innovative young people will go where the opportunities exist and where the local government encourages them to establish new agricultural businesses there. That is not the case on the peninsula.

  9. Thank you, Jeff
    What farmers want:
    – END the moratorium!!
    -Leave #139 Use By Right in place
    -Put BUSINESS PEOPLE in place to settle lawsuit
    …IF, in fact, farm policy is to be dictated by activists, then, perhaps after 170 years it’s time for our family to surrender and exit to residential development.
    Our hearts will be broken …
    Bern&Cheryl Kroupa

    • Thank you for the coherent reply. I would assume the moratorium is due to the attorneys, and I agree that is unfair. Not sure what this has to do with retaining or selling a property – but that is your decision.

      It seems like most people want and are after the same thing, so I also agree that the groups need to take a step back and other individuals who should bow out completely and have real arbitration. Everyone wants a nice place to live, clean water, to make a living – this just doesn’t seem that hard to figure out and compromise on.

  10. 170 years counts for nothing in PTP’s eyes. What counts is whether you are against agriculture doing anything other than growing your crops and soon maybe not that either. They keep insisting ag land should not be commercialized. So no corn mazes, no cut your own flowers no pick your own fruit . God forbid some farmer should offer hay rides out here! While they claim they only target wineries they are farms too. We are hurt by their ill conceived views. Whats worse, the township follows their dictates as if PTP is the pied piper.
    Where this folly leads us is anybody’s guess. One thing for sure is the lawyer for the township id getting very rich. All this in the name of traffic and noise control? So yes sorry to say selling to a developer may be your only alternative.

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