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Michigan farmers awarded $76,144 grant

COLOMA, Mich.-- It's been one of the worst harvest seasons in recent memory, but local Michigan farmers may be getting some relief from the federal government.

Last week some Michigan farmers were awarded a $76,144 grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture.

The Jollay Orchard owners worked with the non-profit,  Michigan Works! to apply for a Farmers Market Promotion grant. 

 

Now, the Jollays are working together with a few other farmers to create a collective marketing effort and build local agritourism.

During one of the worst harvest seasons on record, the Jollay Orchards owners looked for a silver lining.

"The season overall has been difficult because of the late spring freezes so that devastated our crops here," said Jay Jollay. 

 

But, for Jay and his wife Sarah, fewer crops mean more time for strategizing.

"We decided to look at different avenues to boost the tourism side of things here at the farm and still have people visit, albeit they couldn't pick fruit off the tree," said Jay.

The Jollays joined forces with Michigan Works!, to get their tourism ideas off the ground.

"What we ended up doing was writing a grant that was focused on collaborative marketing for this region," said Dan Peat, the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Michigan Works!

 The $76,144 grant will be for a unified "brand" Sarah calls the Emerald Avenue- a collection of agricultural areas surrounding Coloma and Watervleit.

"We know there are other growers, whether they grow the same thing we do or not, that offer a similar experience or that offer a different crop and it gives us kind of a united front to really get a message out there that is consistent,"said Sarah.

The majority of the money will go towards a collective farmers market off of I-94.  

"So we'll be able to leverage this grant money to advertise and promote to those tourists also the local area and let them know that there is a farmers market right in the heart of where everything is actually grown," said Jay. 

The Jollays currently operate the farmers market just off of I-94, but they hope to keep the market open year round and run it as a collective alliance with other farmers in the area.

Each farmer would be able to contribute his own products for sale and help maintain the site.

Currently, there are about 6 other farmers participating in the the alliance.

 

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