Country Mill knows the importance of being MAEAP verified

posted on April 7, 2014 2:19pm

 It may be hard to imagine now, but in a few short months blankets of snow and freezing temperatures will give way to sunny days, soft rains, flowers, buds, fruit and vegetables. During our begrudgingly wintry March, states across the nation recognize the importance of food and agriculture. In order to celebrate Michigan agriculture, food processors and related businesses, Governor Snyder has proclaimed March “Food and Agriculture Month.”

Michigan farmers operate a reported 52,194 farms and produce more than 300 different agricultural commodities. The state ranks fourth in the nation for number of farmers markets. Further, Michigan is also home to 101 wineries and dozens of micro-breweries.

One such farm, orchard, and winery is The Country Mill of Charlotte, Michiagn. Beginning as a small “you-pick” orchard in 1871, the Tennes family purchased the business and property in 1971. To date, it has grown in size and variety to encompass blueberries, peaches, sweet corn, pumpkins, apples, fresh pressed apple cider and a variety of apple wines.

In addition to their location in Charlotte, The Country Mill is the pro­prietor of booths at several local farmers markets including the Meridian Township Farmers Market and the Farmers Market at the Capitol. In light of the recent passing of Public Act 100, which allows the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to issue a special permit for small wine makers to offer samples and sell wine at Michigan farmers markets, The Country Mill has hopes of selling wine at local farmers markets in the near future.

The Country Mill produces several varieties of apple wines. The wines begin as apple cider that is then fermented for 6 to 9 months. They are then sampled and either left as sweet hard cider, dry apple wine, or are mixed with maple syrup, blueberry or cherry juice to make a wine that compliments the natural apple flavor. For owner Steve Tennes, the connection between local wineries and farmers markets is easy to draw, “Local wine sales would benefit consumers by allowing them to have a 100% local meal. It completes the entire experience while highlighting one of Michigan’s growing industries.”

The Country Mill has demonstrated not only a commitment to their customers and products, but a commitment to the environment. To complement the orchard’s 12 acres of certified organic apple trees, bat houses (for pest management), and bee hives, the Country Mill earned MAEAP verification in 2009. When asked about the importance of MAEAP verification Steve offered these sentiments, “As farmers we are constantly learning, just like in any profession. MAEAP offers an excel­lent opportunity for farmers to learn how to be better stewards of their land while also being verified on the practices that we do on the land.”

Diana Tennes, who often sells her family’s, produce and products at local farmers markets, emphasized the need for greater education about MAEAP verification. While she occasionally displays a MAEAP sign at The Country Mill’s farmers market booths, most people do not know what it means. “We do our best to educate others concerning the benefits [of MAEAP verification].”

As spring draws closer, look forward to visiting farmers markets to buy produce and value added products from MAEAP verified farms, orchards and wineries, like The Country Mill. For more information about MAEAP or to learn how to start your own verification process, visit To le.arn more about Michigan farmers markets, visit