Author: Becca

MI Best Stories: Michigan Sugar and Pioneer Sugar

farmer showing sugar beets to his sons

It’s easy to take those sweet treats in your pantry for granted, who thinks about the story behind that big, red bag of Pioneer Sugar.  We do!

MLive and Michigan Best’s Amy Sherman was curious to know more about the sugar she uses so often, especially when she learned that Pioneer Sugar comes from a Michigan-based company, Michigan Sugar Company. Her curiosity was piqued when she read Michigan Sugar Company’s purpose statement,

“Michigan Sugar Company aims to make life sweeter, both literally and figuratively, for our grower-owners, employees, customers, partners, and communities. Whether it’s a bag of our pure, all-natural sugar helping you bake your favorite family recipe, sponsorship of an important community event, providing a quality and stable work environment, delivering an order on time and as expected, or helping maximize profits for our grower-owners, Michigan Sugar Company has been Making Life Sweeter since 1906.”

Check out the videos below to learn more about Michigan Sugar and how you go from a sugar beet (or 7) to a bag of sugar.

We’ll be posting new videos exploring Michigan Sugar Company each week, be sure to come back to learn more!

Episode 1, in this first episode exploring Michigan Sugar, Amy Sherman talks with Rob Clark about how the company came to be and what makes Michigan Sugar so special.

 

Episode 2, in this episode Amy Sherman talks with Michigan Sugar Company’s president, Mark Flegenheimer, whose family has been in the sugar business since the 1920s

 

Episode 3, in this episode Amy talks with Pedro Figueroa, Michigan Sugar’s vice president of sales and marketing. They talk about the details of the sugarbeet processing, Pioneer Sugar’s new red bag, and how Pioneer Sugar is one of the few sugars that is 100% vegan certified.

 

Episode 4, in this episode Amy talks to Ellen Smith, the executive director of Human Resources at Michigan Sugar. As a locally grown, locally owned business, Michigan Sugar is proud to support local communities through its owner-grower farms and large employee base at its processing plants. Find out about what kind of employment opportunities are open at Michigan Sugar, and how to apply (www.michigansugar.com/careers).

 

Episode 5,  in this episode Amy talks with Jim Ruhlman, Michigan Sugar’s executive vice president. They discuss the agricultural side of the sugar production process and how the ‘root’ of the company is the 900+ grower-owners, who not only farm the actual sugarbeets, but also collaborate on seed varietal testing and approval.

 

Episode 6, in this episode Amy talks with Jason Lowry, Michigan Sugar’s vice president of operations. We learn the processing details from farm to factory (spoiler: it involves sugarbeet ‘french fries’) to red bag of Pioneer Sugar.

 

Michigan Sugar Company fun facts:

  • Michigan Sugar Company has been operating since 1906 and has been farmer-grower owned since 2002
  • There are 900 farmer-grower owners
  • Michigan Sugar Company has tested around 300 seed varieties, narrowing that down to up to 20 varieties that have been approved for use in the specific field growing conditions of their farms
  • 18% of a sugar beet is sugar
  • Michigan Sugar company growers plant and harvest 160,000 acres of sugar beets annually
  • That means 1.1 billion pounds of sugar are produced per year
  • It takes about 7 sugar beets to make 1 bag of sugar
  • Michigan Sugar operates 4 sugar beet slicing factories, including the oldest sugar beet slicing factory in the USA, located in Caro, Michigan.

 

Episode 7, in this episode Amy Sherman talks with Corey Guza about the science of creating amazing sugar.

 

Episode 8, Amy Sherman talks to the 2020 Michigan Sugar Queen Shaelynn Lavrack about life as the queen.

 

Episode 9, Amy talks to Adam Herford, chairman of the board and one of the over 900 grower-owners of Michigan Sugar. His multi-generation, over 100 year old farm, W.A. Herford & Sons, has been growing for and working with Michigan Sugar since his great-grandfather. He gets into the details of the grower-owner setup as well as the crop rotation, weather, and sustainability.

 

Episode 10,  in this episode Amy talks with Kevin Messing about his role as a field consultant for Michigan Sugar.

 

Episode 11, in this episode Amy talks with Kelly Scheffler, Michigan Sugar’s Bay City factory manager. Kelly walks us through the day-to-day operations of Michigan Sugar and some of the history, including how the currently operating factories are the original factory buildings, built in the 1900s, and upgraded and expanded since then. Kelly and his family have been a part of that long Michigan Sugar history for 3 generations, since his dad and continuing to his son.

 

Episode 12,  in this episode Amy talks with Elizabeth Taylor, the Ag relations and communications manager for Michigan Sugar. Elizabeth is in charge of the popular sugarbeet processing plant tours for Michigan Sugar. In normal times they average about 1,200 people through in a year, during their tour season from the end of September through February.

 

For more sweet goodness from Michigan Sugar, check out our Michigan’s Best, Sweet Treat of the Week on mlive.com/michigansbest or visit the Michigan Sugar Company website, michigasugar.com.

How physical therapy combats COVID-19’s work-from-home aches and pains

two people do physical therapy at Advent PT

The home office that consists of hunching over a laptop while slouching on a couch.

The dining table that has been transformed to a makeshift desk.

The constant sitting when there’s no co-workers to stroll over for a chat or head out on a run for coffee.

Increased screen-time before, during and after work.

They’re all adding up to create an ergonomic nightmare with lingering impact – headaches, sore necks, back pain and more.

Gretchen Walsh, a veteran physical therapist, says the COVID-19 pandemic and the pivot to work-from-home environments is taking a toll on adults. Similarly, stay-home and stay-safe orders that have also restricted adult and youth sports leagues are contributing to the impact.

“Our bodies need movement, and the impact of the virus has made many of us more sedentary,” said Walsh, who practices at Advent Physical Therapy. “We’ve also formed bad habits that are causing us to feel aches and pain that shouldn’t be normal. If those are ignored and go untreated, they get worse and the limitations will get progressively bigger.”

Specialists at Advent Physical Therapy’s 15 West Michigan locations have noted an increase in non-injury musculoskeletal problems that can be resolved with a physical therapy treatment plan. The services cover all areas of the body, and Advent has also developed programs to help patients who are recovering from COVID-19.

“We’re seeing a lot more people who have an injury, but can’t pinpoint a day, time or one thing that happened and now they hurt,” said Walsh. “It was an accumulation of issues over time and they didn’t necessarily correlate it with working from home or a more sedentary lifestyle.

“You shouldn’t be in pain, and if you are, your body is signaling to you that something is wrong.”

The progression has left muscles weaker, endurance sapped and bodies breaking down, all symptoms that physical therapy can help overcome.

Advent physical therapists are available to help with or without a doctor’s referral. The group practice pairs patients with experienced professionals for in-clinic visits, through virtual care and even branching out to at-home treatment.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU: Discover Advent Physical Therapy’s 15 West Michigan clinics

REQUEST A FREE SCREENING: Here’s how to start restoring your health with physical therapy

Therapists perform an initial assessment to determine the source of the discomfort and then design an individual plan that can include evidence-based manual therapy and/or therapeutic exercises for pain-free function. In general, recovery programs involve two to three clinic visits per week and daily routines of varying length to stretch and strengthen the affected muscles as well as work on total body conditioning.

“Everything is designed to get you back to where you were and what you were doing,” Walsh said. “We really tailor our sessions and our patient experiences to the individual and their personal goals.”

Successful outcomes occur with less dependence on pain relievers or opioids and often at a lower cost than going to a physician who could simply end up referring patients for a physical therapy regimen.

Advent Physical Therapy has also helped COVID-19 patients bounce back from the virus with a respiratory recovery program and training sessions that restore range of motion, flexibility and strength deficits that developed while ill. Physical therapy begins to minimize any discomfort and offers pain relief, Walsh said.

“We’re another helping hand in recovery,” she said. “Our goal is always to get patients back to what they love as quickly, and as comfortably, as possible.”

LEARN ABOUT OUR COVID-19 PROGRAM: Recovering from coronavirus? See Advent’s Respiratory Treatment

National coffee day with Biggby

Eric Hultgren holding a Biggby coffee sitting in bed

What could you do with 200 hours? The average coffee bean’s journey from farm to coffee cup is 200 hours and mutliple stops along the way. Biggby wants to change that, and is taking steps now to be 50% farm direct by 2023 – a move which will benefit farm employees, communities and sustainability.

Check out the video below to learn more, as Eric Hultgren explains how many steps it takes for a coffee bean to become a cup of coffee on National Coffee Day.

Find out more about Biggby and farm direct coffee at: onebiggislandinspace.com

 

 

 

Change of plans: Spend fall ‘football weekends’ in Traverse City

couple walking through a vineyard in Traverse City, MI

Football is a tough ticket this fall, with high school crowds in the southern half of Michigan limited to friends and family members and the Detroit Lions playing games in an empty stadium. Some fans already have gone to extraordinary heights just to catch a glimpse of the action.

But even though the fall football season is much different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, autumn in the Traverse City area is its usual beautiful self.

friends walking through the woods in Traverse City, MIWhile you wait to root for the green and white Spartans or cheer the maize and blue Wolverines on TV later this year, you can come to Traverse City right now and celebrate the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of a fall color tour. You can mimic a football tailgate by checking out some of the Traverse City area’s nearly 20 breweries and 40-plus wineries. You can grab a seat at the bar and enjoy some classic football food at one of the region’s many unique restaurants and watering holes.

And guess what? It’s easy to get a season pass to all the glories of fall, too. Money-saving Fab Fall packages are available in the Traverse City area from now into December with lodging deals as well as discounts on dining, shopping and attractions.

RELATED: Get your front row seat for fall fun in Traverse City

With the calendar cleared of football road trips to Ann Arbor, East Lansing or Ford Field, you have a fall full of weekends to visit Traverse City and enjoy everything else that’s great about Michigan’s best season of the year. Here’s a look at just some of the ways to get your fall fix in the Traverse City area:

Pre-game coin flipBreweries or wineries…or both? You don’t need tickets to a football game to enjoy a great tailgate party! The Traverse City area long has been a delicious destination for wine lovers, its vineyards blessed with ideal grape-growing geography and climate. The region also is home to a burgeoning microbrewery scene featuring the popular Short’s Brewing Co. in Bellaire along with nearly two dozen other innovative craft beer makers each with their own unique fall flavors to taste.

Opening kickoff – Put on your favorite cozy sweatshirt and take a drive through the Traverse City area on a fall color tour that fans of all football teams can appreciate. Check out these ideas for some of the best places (and the best ways) to enjoy fall color in Traverse City.

On offense – Just like in a football game, you can keep the action on the ground with a fall hike through one of the Traverse City area’s gorgeous nature preserves or with a ride along some of the region’s many miles of bike trails. Or, you can take to the air with a scenic chairlift ride or a hot air balloon tour. You can even get into the water in family bicycling on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, MIa kayak for a new perspective on fall colors or do your best to stay out of the water and trees while playing a round on one of the Traverse City area’s championship golf courses while it’s cloaked in the season’s beauty. The region is full of outdoor recreation to enjoy in the fall, from quiet strolls along the beach and picturesque hikes through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to peaceful trout streams where you can cast a line and haul in the catch of the day.

On defense – Protect your pocketbook by getting a head start on holiday shopping with great fall deals at the unique shops, galleries and boutiques all over the Traverse City area. Whether browsing the tree-lined streets of downtown Traverse City, the one-of-a-kind Village at Grand Traverse Commons or one of the area’s quaint port towns, you’re sure to find some special treasures – and a tasty bite or two – as you enjoy a memorable fall day.

Special teams – Don’t punt away another opportunity to experience the beauty of fall in northern Michigan. Now is the time to see what makes autumn in the Traverse City area so special. Be sure to visit a U-pick farm where you can pluck apples right off the tree, pick out a pumpkin for the porch back home and allow yourself the simple pleasure of navigating an old-fashioned corn maze. And don’t forget to indulge in some donuts and cider, of course!

Halftime show – COVID-19 has done a number on live events this year, including cancellation of many events typically held in the fall. Fortunately, not everything is on hold. For example, you’ll find local musicians performing at restaurants, breweries and wineries throughout the Traverse City area all fall. Plus, the annual Traverse City Beer Week is still on tap for Nov. 13-20! You can plan your visit around Beer Week or any of these upcoming events.

couple hugging while looking at the sunset over the bay Traverse CityPost-game festivities – At the end of each day’s fall adventure, retire to one of the Traverse City area’s many unique hotels, resorts and B&Bs where you can relax and recharge for more fall fun the following day. Save money by booking your place to stay with a Fab Fall package!

Biggby co-founder offers no-nonsense advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

Mike McFall, Biggby Co-founder

Mike McFall has a lot to say about being an entrepreneur.

Most of the advice and strategies are not what you’d expect to hear from the co-founder and co-chief executive of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, a 25-year-old, $100 million franchise with more than 250 locations in the Midwest.

McFall shares his thoughts, ideas and much more in his recently released book “Grind: A No Bullshit Approach to Take Your Business from Concept to Cash Flow.” The anecdotes, information and calls to action do exactly what the book title infers, McFall says, by providing real-world experiences in building a start-up.

Here’s a sampling of outtakes about the book from a recent conversation with McFall:

  • “People will talk about market research, price points, competition, the commodity, but you never hear anyone talk about the mentality and mindset that you have to have to do the work. Being an entrepreneur is not a get-rich-quick idea. If you’re not willing to invest 7 to 10 years of your life and be the most dependable part of the business, you’re going to fail.”
  • “Are you comfortable being a salesperson because 83 percent of CEOs on the Inc. 500 list were the only or primary salesperson in their business. If you’re scared of sales, if it’s not your thing, you really have to think about if this is a good idea.”
  • “Being an entrepreneur is no super power. The real key is you have to understand your strategic abilities and be clear about what you don’t know, can’t do or who you need to bring in to get the job done. You can’t have an ego that you know everything.”
  • “Partnerships have all the complexities of a marriage without the benefit of the hanky panky. Just like committing your life to someone, you have to make sure you’re right for each other.”

front cover of Mike McFall's book 'Grind'The book project has been a decade in the making for McFall as he evaluated how Biggby’s growth mirrored – or more importantly didn’t reflect – what he had read in other books about entrepreneurship. The others, McFall said, were either written from the perspective of jet-setting, ultra-successful billionaires who were looking back through rose-colored glasses or written by academics who were presenting their theories and case-studies.

“I didn’t see any who were in the middle of it,” McFall said. “I wanted to bring the practical side of starting a business with the voice of somebody who lives it day in and day out. It’s not a textbook.”

Discover Biggby: What the coffee franchise stands for and why coffee brings people together.

Grind tracks different situations that McFall and his co-founder/co-CEO Bob Fish encountered while building their business from a single location in Lansing. He writes about a loyal customer’s willingness to buy them outdoor furniture so that others could sit and relax, and how that gesture left an impression that helped form the company culture.

The book also tracks successes and pitfalls from both the Biggby perspective and franchisees who achieved beyond initial projections, as well as those that weren’t able to make it and why they came up short.

McFall shares how he and Fish made Biggby work by defining clear expectations and roles, and the importance of holding each other accountable while also not meddling.

Throughout Grind, McFall shares the necessity of entrepreneurs to be themselves while being aware of others. Leaders need to be brave but balance it with humility and display a willingness to understand differing perspectives.

“In 25 years, we’ve not had one knockdown, drag out battle, and that’s because we approach each other with a high degree of respect,” McFall says when talking about being a leader and a partner. “We can call each other out and do it while listening to why we feel so strongly and so passionate about something.

“If you can’t do that, maybe you shouldn’t be in business together.”

Praise for the book has come from business leaders, educators and investors, including:

  • Tasha Eurich, New York Times bestselling author (Bankable Leadership & Insight): “If you have ever wondered what it might be like to open your own business, read this book. Even if you have no interest in starting a business, the insights in this book are valuable for life in general.”
  • Michael Williams, Director of Entrepreneurship Activity & Director of the Business and Entrepreneurship Clinic, University of Wisconsin, Madison: “This is a must read for every new start up. Every entrepreneur needs to learn how to sell and discern good advice from bad. Mike does a great job breaking all of this down through real life examples.”
  • Michael Soenen, Partner, Valor Equity Partners: “If more entrepreneurs considered this message it would be great for my business, as I would have more late stage companies to invest in.”

McFall said readers have offered great feedback and engagement since Grind’s debut in August.

“It’s been fun to listen to what others took away from it or how they got through some of their start-up positions,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is satisfying, but it takes commitment and desire. You can’t walk in talking about an exit strategy or accumulating wealth. It has to be about being the best at what you do and giving everything you have. If you don’t do that, it probably won’t work.”

Find Grind today at independent bookstores, online at Amazon or in Barnes and Noble locations.

How a southwest Michigan event venue staged unique events through the pandemic

people watching a concert at a drive in movie theater

When the reality of COVID-19 hit, things came to a screeching halt in mid-March. For The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, that meant the cancellation and postponement of more than 100 events and performances.

The Mendel Center, located in Benton Harbor, Michigan, features two performance stages and 12 meeting spaces. It hosts everything from weddings to business gatherings to national touring acts – but things are different this year.

“It was a good year we had to slam the brakes on,” said Mike Nadolski, executive director of The Mendel Center. “When it first started happening, there was a little disbelief. We had a kicking the can down the road mindset.”

But that mindset didn’t last long. As an event venue meant to bring in large amounts of people for a connected experience, The Mendel Center faced obvious hurdles in the midst of stay-at-home orders. Despite the difficult times, Nadolski and The Mendel Center set out to find new ways to serve its southwest Michigan communities.

“We moved from kicking the can to pivoting,” Nadolski said. “We moved to see what we could do online. We created the Remotely Interested program. We are still a community center; we are about connecting people.”

Remotely Interested is a series that features local and regional artists who will perform from the comfort of their homes or studios while the audience sits back and enjoys online. From musical performances to interviews, The Mendel Center was able to provide artists a platform.

Discover more: The Mendel Center Remotely Interested Online Events

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College in Benton HarborAs time progressed, The Mendel Center continually sought ways to innovate and pivot as a means to stay active in the communities as restrictions remained. They started hosting micro-weddings, where attendance is limited to fewer than 10 people and is broadcasted to everyone else to view at home.

Recently, a drive-in concert series — aptly named Drive-In Live! — was also launched.

“With almost all of the usual summertime activities in the region cancelled due to the pandemic, the Drive-in Live! concerts fill a void and create a sense of connection in our community that has been missing during these challenging times,” Nadolski said.

At the concerts, each vehicle is issued two parking spaces, one for parking and one for tailgating. An FM radio signal provides the audio, while a large projection screens shows all the action occurring on stage. Additionally, each concert features trivia contests and prize giveaways. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also available for purchase via cell phone and delivered directly to each tailgate zone.

Nadolski said precautions are in place to protect the health and safety of the concertgoers.

There are two concerts left in The Mendel Center’s Drive-In Live! series. On Saturday, September 19, Siusan O’Rourke & Zig Zeitler, Sankofa and The Big Payback perform. On Sunday, September 27, Mike Talbot, John Latini and Alex & Erin take the stage. Tickets are $10 per person with up to six people per vehicle. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the music starts at 6 p.m.

Buy tickets for Drive-In Live!

Through all the challenges of putting events on this year, Nadolski said the southwest Michigan communities and sponsors have been incredibly supportive in making it all a reality.

“I’m emotional just thinking about it,” he said. “Some of these businesses are struggling as much as we are. It’s nice to know there is a community out there that’s appreciative of what we do. It can make us come back stronger than ever.”

Nadolski highlights southwest Michigan’s vibrant arts scene as a reason The Mendel Center managed to push through the difficult times this year.

“They trust us if we are bringing something new or different in,” he said. “They know our standards are high.”

With generous communities and supportive sponsors behind them, The Mendel Center managed to stage unique, creative events. The show goes on.

Learn more about the arts & culture scene in southwest Michigan.