growers, to control their entire product
cycle as well as fulfill their personal
dreams of owning a winery.
The farm’s wine is currently produced
off-site, but as the business grows and
more cherry trees are replaced, the family
hopes to convert their operations to entirely
“My heart is still in cherries, but I just
fell in love with the whole process (of
making wine),” Creighton Gallagher said.
Kerm Campbell, a former chemical
engineer who established an inn and two
wineries known as Black Star Farms,
hopes to further bolster the local wine
industry by supplying farmers with locally
Campbell Milarch Vines, which he
formed with local nursery owner Jake
Milarch, aims to plant about 30,000 vines
next year and build to 100,000 annually in
Although Michigan is primarily known
for white wine grapes such as riesling,
chardonnay and pinot gris, Campbell
Milarch recently received a state grant that
will help extend the growing season for red
wine grapes in the area.
“We’re going to double down and keep
doubling down until I find the answers I’m
looking for,” Campbell said.
Although unpredictable Michigan
weather can also wreak havoc on grapes,
the cherry crop, in particular, remains
under attack on multiple fronts.
The tart cherry remains the area’s
dominant crop and is enjoying a run of
good publicity thanks to its nutritional value
and reported benefits for sleep and muscle
But Nikki Rothwell, a researcher at
Michigan State University Extension’s
Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research
Center, is concerned that its days could be
The area’s spring weather was
historically regulated by the frozen Grand
Traverse Bay, but Rothwell said that climate
change makes freezing over less reliable.
That could trigger warmer weather — and
cherry blooms — earlier in the year, and if
cold weather returns, a devastating frost.
The region lost nearly the entirety of its
cherry crop to those factors in 2002 and
The bigger enemy, however, is the
Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), an invasive
Asian vinegar fly that surfaced in California
in 2008 and quickly spread to the Midwest
within two years. The fly, Rothwell said,
particularly enjoys tart cherries.
“We’re just scrambling to find answers
for these guys,” Rothwell said.
Farmers are currently
deploying pesticides to
prevent SWD infestations
of their cherries, but
Rothwell noted that
cherry trees are a
30-year investment and
take seven years to
become large enough to
withstand the industry’s
She worries that
farmers will decide that
the crop isn’t worth the
trouble. In addition to
SWD research, the MSU
facility also hopes to
develop smaller plants
and harvesting systems
to enable farmers to see
returns in as little as two
years instead of seven.
The research center is
funded by fees imposed
by growers, and its staff
includes just a handful
of researchers and
students. But the facility
received federal funding to combat the
SWD and secured a state grant in hopes
of expanding its property — a sign that
farmers and policymakers alike recognize
the economic importance of its work.
“We’re the hub for tart cherry research
in the country,” Rothwell said.
Michigan State University Extension’s
Northwest Michigan Horticultural
Research Center received federal
funding to combat the Spotted Wing
Drosophila, an invasive Asian vinegar
fly that particularly enjoys tart
Rove Winery’s wine is currently
produced off-site, but as the business
grows and more cherry trees are
replaced, the family-owned company
hopes to convert its operations to
entirely estate-made wine.
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