(Editor’s Note: OMP farmer Jed Hemming says that agriculture is changing on the Old Mission Peninsula, and that wineries should be embraced. Read more of his thoughts below. If you’ve got something to say about anything related to the Old Mission Peninsula, write it up and send it to me, [email protected]. -jb)
The recent colorful post cards from Protect the Peninsula (PTP) soliciting money highlight one of the problems in the winery conflict on the Old Mission Peninsula. Taking something out of context and using it to solicit donations and create anti-winery sentiment does not move the dial toward a negotiated settlement and community harmony.
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PTP’s anti-winery diatribes at the last Township meeting were also an attempt to create negative sentiment among the citizens of Peninsula Township. The statement from one of the PTP leadership suggesting it is wrong for wineries to do commercial business on Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) land shows their ignorance. The right to residential development is what was purchased.
What is agriculture if not a commercial enterprise? Is the new market at the corner of Center Road and Gray Road not agriculture? This is an attempt to create public animosity and try this in the court of public opinion.
Conflict between agriculture and urbanization is occurring in the suburbs of growing cities everywhere. The Old Mission Peninsula is urbanizing exponentially. Without an active, profitable agricultural industry, PDR will not stop the flood of houses, it will only delay it and make it more expensive.
Look around you at the open fields where fruit trees have been removed. I have personally removed 20 percent with no plans to replace them. I plan to continue removing trees annually.
Old Mission Peninsula wineries need to be embraced. Agriculture on the Peninsula is changing. The cherry business is declining. There were once four processers on the Peninsula. Kroupa’s, Inc. (just north of Peninsula Cellars on Center Road -jb), now a pile of crushed concrete — which, as a side note, the township is standing in the way of cleaning up — was the largest maraschino processor in the United States. Now, trucks are loaded to ship cherries downstate for processing.
The number of processors is declining. Some of us were recently working with a large, promising market for cherries, but they recently decided to go elsewhere with less conflict. Farmers are aging out, and the next generation is looking for a change. Grapes seem to be a more appealing crop to grow and fit the current trend of crops that are grown and marketed locally.
Of course, for grapes to succeed we need processors/wineries. Limiting wineries limits the market for grapes. So why would anybody plant grapes? Same problem as cherries — limited market, limited opportunity, limited income. THIS IS NOT A HOBBY.
This conflict has rapidly become a conflict between PTP and Peninsula agriculture. The Peninsula Township Board is our representative, NOT PTP.
The Board needs to take control, negotiate with the wineries and settle this now.
-Jed Hemming, Farmer and Old Mission Peninsula Resident
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb