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Growing a partnership and an industry

Lee Lutes
Winemaker and General Manager, Black Star Farms

Growing wine grapes in northwest Michigan can be a difficult task. Mother Nature is not always cooperative, and yields in this region are arguably marginal two or three years out of 10. That means we are willing to subject ourselves to a quality level below our own expectations 20 percent to 30 percent of the time.

Every year at Black Star Farms, we strive for excellence in everything we do, from hospitality to food service to the quality of product that goes into every one of our wine bottles. When we know that some of that quality is going to be jeopardized by the idiosyncrasies of nature, we need all of the advantages we can assemble.

This is where an institution like MSU comes in.

Every great fruit-producing region of the world has an institution that supports it through research and development. MSU has served the Michigan wine industry for more than 50 years and has been there in support as it has moved from a marginally recognized sweet wine-producing region to one of national acclaim.

These progressions are at times possible through the natural development of an industry, but MSU and its researchers have aided in its expedience, have insured its success today, and will continue to serve its needs well into the future.

The growth of the Michigan wine industry has had significant successes beyond the recognition of its product lines. As the industry has grown, so have the “adjunct industries” that serve this developing market. We have seen significant growth in the state around food and beverage, hospitality, agricultural equipment and machinery, construction and all of its support industries, and more.

All of these industries require people, and there are certainly people throughout the state who are anxious to get to work in support of this growth. In this way, MSU is not only supporting the growth and development of the grape and wine industry but also the state’s employment recovery. Together, in more ways than we can even recognize now, we can make a difference. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the next 20 years!