Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ford's Cherry Hill Farm Achieves Agricultural Honors

  • Ford Motor Company's Cherry Hill Farm is being honored by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) for effective land stewardship.
DEARBORN, Mich., June 12, 2012 – When you think of Ford Motor Company you're likely to think of cars and trucks – not farms. So it may come as a surprise to learn that the company has a storied farming history. Today Ford's last free-standing working farm – Cherry Hill Farm – is being honored by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) for effective land stewardship. MAEAP verification is a voluntary program that shows farmers how to reduce agricultural pollution.
The Cherry Hill Farm is an 882-acre working farm in Washtenaw County that produces corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. Once used by Ford's Tractor Division for testing, the land is managed by Ford Land, the company's real estate arm, and farmed by the VanWashenova family. The property includes three historic barns and a farmhouse. 
"I am honored to farm land that has such strong ties to Ford Motor Company," said Al VanWashenova. "Getting the Ford Cherry Hill Farm verified was the right thing to do, and I am very proud of this accomplishment."
"For the past 12 years, Ford and the VanWashenova family have made a great team," said Donna Inch, Ford Land chairman and CEO. "Today's recognition is another example of Ford's commitment to sustainability."
Strong Historical Ties to Agriculture
Starting in 1906 and continuing through the early part of the 20th century, Henry Ford acquired 26,000 acres of farm property in southern Michigan, and much of the farmland was managed in detail by Ford himself. During these years Ford began his experimentation with farming techniques, crops and tractors using many of these farms as laboratories. Ford's giant land holdings were made up of hundreds of small, family-sized farms – many with a livable house and usable barns like the Cherry Hill Farm. The Cherry Hill Farm was used to test tractors and their implements, and raise crops for experimentation including early biomaterials and food production.
Henry Ford made certain his properties were well fenced, the roads were in good repair and the schools for the farm children were the best possible. Many of the farms were used as meeting places for much of the community, and Cherry Hill is no exception. Dances were held in the historic barns on the property, and community meetings were held in the old farmhouse.
In the past few years, Ford has begun restoration efforts at the Cherry Hill Farm. Of the three barns, one has been restored, one is in the middle of the restoration process and the third is slated to begin restoration next year. In addition, work has been done to the old farmhouse including new siding and windows.
MAEAP Verification
To become MAEAP verified, farmers must complete three comprehensive steps which include attending an educational seminar, conducting a thorough on-farm risk assessment, and developing and implementing an action plan addressing potential environmental risks. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) conducts an on‑farm inspection to verify compliance. When completed, the producer receives a certificate of environmental assurance. To remain a MAEAP verified farm, inspections must be conducted every three years and action steps must be followed.
"With this farm’s historical tie to both the automotive and agriculture industries, we congratulate Ford Cherry Hill Farm and the VanWashenova family on this verification," said Gordon Wenk, MDARD’s chief deputy director. "This verification shows the strong commitment both Ford Motor Company and Cherry Hill Farm have to sustainable agriculture practices as well as safeguarding the environment."
MAEAP is a collaborative effort of farmers, MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau, commodity organizations, universities, conservation districts, conservation and environmental groups, and state and federal agencies.  More than 100 local coordinators and technical service providers are available to assist farmers as they move through the MAEAP process toward verification. An average of 5,000 Michigan farmers attend educational programs annually; 10,000 Michigan farms have started the verification process; and more than 1,100 farms have been verified to date.
In March of 2011, Governor Rick Snyder signed Senate Bill 122 and House Bill 4212, now Public Acts 1 and 2 of 2011, to codify the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program into law.
MAEAP is a multi-year program allowing producers to meet personal objectives, while best managing both time and resources. The program encompasses three systems designed to help producers evaluate the environmental risks of their operation. Each system – Livestock, Farmstead, and Cropping – examines a different aspect of a farm, as each has a different environmental impact. By participating in all three systems, producers can comprehensively evaluate their entire farming operation for potential environmental risks. 
For more information, visit the MAEAP website at www.maeap.org or contact Jan Wilford, MDARD’s MAEAP program manager, at 517-241-4730.

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