Sourcing locally-grown carrots for Michigan institutions

Malburg Acres LLC in Hart, Michigan grows carrots for area processors and distributors.

Photo by Malburg Acres LLC
Photo by Malburg Acres LLC

Gerald Malburg started his farm in 1974 with the purchase of 80 acres in Mason County. Gerald and his six children operated the farm. They grew cherries, squash and asparagus. Over the following 42 years, the farm grew, and modern farm equipment was purchased. The farm transitioned to the production of asparagus, carrots, sugar beets and asparagus crowns from seed on over 1,600 acres in Oceana and Mason Counties.

Today, Malburg Acres LLC is owned and operated by Gerald’s son, Ryan, and his wife, Krisz Malburg. The farm produces 140 acres of carrots for processing and distribution. Honee Bear Canning based in Lawton, Mich., Campbell’s Soup and Pearson Foods based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and several other large buyers source carrots from Malburg Acres LLC. Pearson Foods recently launched a partnership with Gordon Food Service to distribute a line of Michigan grown foods to area schools, colleges and hospitals. Malburg carrots will be featured in this new partnership. Last year, Pearson Foods sourced approximately 640,000 pounds of carrots from Malburg Acres LLC for carrot sticks, coins and shredded carrot. Malburg Acres LLC is USDA GAP certified, which is a key asset for institutional sales.

Food service directors wanting to learn more about how Michigan carrots are grown and harvested will be invited to a farm tour of Malburg Acres LLC this fall. The tour will be hosted by the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, Michigan State University Extension and the Cultivate Michigan campaign. Michigan carrots are a 2016 featured food of the Cultivate Michigan campaign and a new local purchasing guide was recently released to help food service directors source and prepare locally grown carrots.

One of the trickiest things about growing carrots is getting one that is long and straight. Ryan and Krisz say that planting the carrots close together in sandy soil helps carrots grow straight. If the soil is too heavy, they can’t push through. If they have too much room, they will grow too wide. Weeds are also a major issue with carrots. Malburg plants oats as a cover crop with the carrots to limit weed growth. Krisz said irrigation was critical this year because it has been so dry.

Michigan ranks fourth in the nation in the production of carrots. They are harvested from mid September through the end of November. Michigan carrots can be orange, red, purple, yellow, white or black. Carrots provide about 30 percent of the vitamin A in the American diet, which is beneficial for eyesight.

Krisz Malburg says her favorite way to eat carrots is in vegetable soup. The Cultivate Michigan carrot guide features recipes for carrot and broccoli salad, brown rice pilaf with carrots and fresh dill, and curried carrot and ginger soup, which are all scaled for institutional serving sizes (50 or more servings).

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