Category: Innovation

This 330-mile trail system, the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest, is in Michigan

snowmobiling in Munising, MI

It seems perfectly fitting for 2020, which has been unusual in so many ways, that a lack of significant snowfall has delayed activity in the Upper Peninsula’s Snowmobiling Capital of the Midwest, centered around 330 miles of trails near Munising.

But weather reports indicate that a return to normal is coming as the late December and early January forecast shows snow accumulations to hit the area in 7 of the next 10 days.

friends pose in front of the frozen Eben Ice Caves in Munising, MI area“There’s never really a problem or a question if we’ll have enough snow,” said Cori-Ann Cearly, the president of the Munising Visitors Bureau. “It’s always just a matter of when.”

The region averages 230 inches of snow each winter, making Munising and Alger County the perfect destination and starting spot for sled riders looking for a complete trail system that allows travel between towns, through magical woods, and to majestic ice caves and ice structures that daring climbers scale daily.

The groomed terrain matches any snowmobiler’s taste for adventure, or an easy day on the packed surfaces to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Miner’s Castle. The wide berths and stress-relieving scenic views are the perfect tonic to the tumultuous year stained by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the virus in Alger County has been minimized by safety measures and social distancing. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in winter

“Going on an adventure and seeing things that bring you joy is something we all really need right now,” Cearly said. “The most important thing is that it offers an opportunity for activity that is safe and healthy.

“The trails are like a highway in the woods, and it’s a place that we can slow down take your time and just be outdoors.”

Here is what Munising visitors will find:

330 miles of trails groomed daily

Members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County (SORVA for short) begin grooming the trials Dec. 1 and continue as long as the snow lasts, which is usually into April. The system provides access from Au Train to Shingleton and all trails and points between, Cearly said.

Widened trails improve safety

The trails that already allowed riders to glide across the snow will now include a median of sorts. SORVA brought in brush-hogging equipment over the warmer months to provide more room to ride – a key safety factor when sled operators encounter each other while traveling in opposite directions. Cearly estimates that the paths have 30 percent more room. While the width could allow three riders to fan out side-by-side, it is still strongly recommended to travel the trails single-file.

Low-lying areas have been in-filled

More off-season trail preparation has brought even better grading and filling to eliminate large depressions and holes. Don’t worry, there are still great hills and varying terrain, but riders won’t hit pothole-like conditions while zipping around the trail. Previously snowfalls would not completely fill and level the terrain since the snow packs down and forms around the hole, just like a pothole that will jar you while driving on pavement.

“All of this has been done to make it a better experience,” Cearly said. “You’re going to have just as much fun, probably more, because it’s going to be such a smooth ride.”

Smaller season crowds and better rates

Now, to be fair, with hundreds of miles of trails and countless off-trail spots to ride, there’s rarely snowmobile gridlock. History, however, shows that winter is slower than the summer influx of sightseers. Lodging rates fluctuate with demand, so that means there are even better deals to be found at area hotels.

If you don’t have your own machine, you can potentially find rental sleds available at a lower cost as well. It’s the perfect time for a quick winter weekend up north.

Shake off the holiday (and pandemic) stress: The holiday haze is real as we spend much of November and December rushing around shopping and only to hunker down with the turn of the new year. Break out of the cabin fever doldrums and see natural beauty that will relieve all the pent-up pressure.

Learn more about all Munising has to offer here.

 

Cutting-edge virtual physical therapy treats everyday aches and pains at home

Alliance PT Agile PT at home

As Grand Rapids-based Alliance Physical Therapy’s leaders prepared for the nationwide launch of its Agile Virtual Care telehealth practice, they were confident in the distinct advantage the service is providing patients.

CEO Richard Leaver explained: “We are embracing the technology that allows us to leverage a 40-year history of delivering high-quality care and exceptional patient experiences beyond our brick-and-mortar locations. We have developed a network that relies on existing physical therapy professionals and their expertise and proven clinical abilities.

“While others rely on the platform and try to build out the care network, we are balancing the strength of our practices with telehealth advancements. It is a fundamental difference.”

Patients will be able to access physical therapy from the comfort of their home and at the time that fits their schedules, Leaver said. The process is simple, convenient and, most importantly, effective because of the physical therapists who will customize treatment plans for each patient.

The standard of care, evidence-based treatment and attention to detail is no different from an office visit except for it taking place via a smartphone app, on a computer or tablet.

Agile Virtual Care will serve patients experiencing everyday body pain, movement limitations, strength decreases, a lack of flexibility, as well as those who require treatment before or after surgery. The most common areas of need center around:

  • Neck
  • Back
  • Shoulder
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Foot
  • Ankle
  • Wrist

“There is a full range of service and direct 1-on-1 care,” Leaver said. “As a consumer, you get more attention because there are no distractions and no one else in the session.”

Direct access to therapists can begin without a doctor referral and Agile Virtual Care will work with patients to determine any insurance coverage across the 29-state network. Virtual care reduces patient expenses by up to 47 percent and speeds scheduling an appointment by 60 percent over in-person care, studies have found.

“Our goal is to improve timely access to care and also geographical access,” Leaver said, pointing out that many patients do not live near a physical therapy center. Patients who do live near an office can use a hybrid treatment, particularly useful if manual therapy is needed.

The easy-to-navigate four-step process to regaining agility and muscle memory starts with requesting an appointment online or calling 1-844-648-0024 to provide patient information and a description of symptoms and limitations. Next, patients, within 12 to 24 hours, will receive an email with instructions to join a virtual care appointment at a time they’ve selected.

Patients enter a virtual waiting room before their visit and meet the therapist who will discuss the problem before evaluating mobility and movement thresholds. The trained, licensed therapist determines a course of care and recommends exercises and other recovery strategies.

The treatment continues at home through prescribed video exercises that give patients visual reference to their treatment, reminders to perform the movements and the ability to track their work. Future visits with physical therapists are charted out based on individual need. A typical first consultation and evaluation lasts approximately an hour and follow-up appointments are generally about 30 minutes

Virtual physical therapy is ideal for time-crunched professionals, weekend-warrior athletes who want to get back in the game and those simply looking to improve their lives, Leaver said. The virtual platform allows patients to skip steps necessary to access help.

Instead of going to an urgent care or scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician, who often will refer patients to physical therapy, there is a direct line to assistance.

“We’re really breaking new ground here with the immediate access to a robust, effective method of treating a wide range of conditions,” Leaver said. “We’re making it easier for people to live and feel their best.”

Visit Agile Virtual Care today to learn more or reach the physical therapy team here.

At Home with Eastbrook Homes: Home Repair Services

Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes and Joel Ruiter of Home Repair Services sit down with Eric Hultgren to discuss the impactful work HRS does in the community. Learn about Home Repair Service’s mission of strengthening vulnerable Kent County homeowners to build strong communities, as well as Eastbrook Home’s tie to the non-profit. HRS offers classes, resources, financial aid, ramp building, and more to the Kent County community. One program they offer is ramp building, which Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes has helped with for over a decade. This podcast will delve into various community needs, HRS’ story and mission, and how corporations and individuals alike can make a difference in their community.

Learn more about Home Repair Services here: http://www.homerepairservices.org/

Learn more about Eastbrook Homes here: http://www.eastbrookhomes.com

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.

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

 

 

 

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.

In a Time of Screens and Falls in Munising, MI

Across Michigan kids are learning virtually, one of the upsides of this is that if they aren’t in a classroom – they can learn from anywhere. So why not take them to one of the most breathtaking spots in the state, Munising, MI? Munising is home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, nearly 20 different waterfalls, 7 lighthouses, and did we mention incredible shipwrecks?

If this is your first time in Munising the interactive app makes it easy to navigate the area and plan some truly memorable adventures for your kids. Plan your trip today at Munising.org and create your own Michigan adventure.

 

 

 

5 incredible recipes using Michigan-made, barrel-aged food products

Foods made with Blis Gourmet barrel-aged food products

Steve Stallard has lived by the mantra “Because Life is Short” since he was a teenager, but the creation and impact of one of the most popular Michigan-made line of food products is anything but fleeting.

Stallard, who was trained at the legendary Culinary Institute of America and later worked at gourmet restaurants including Taillevent Restaurant of Paris, The Greenbrier Club, Dow and The Amway Grand Plaza, created Grand Rapids-based BLiS Gourmet in 2004.

He pioneered using barrel-aged items with the launch of domestic roes and maple syrup, following up with one-of-a-kind products such as barrel-aged vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, and fish sauce, as well as salt and spices. The ingredients were all chef-driven and developed as the finishing touches to dishes.

Stallard began dabbling in barrel aging while working professionally and using maple syrup and bourbon as his “house” cure. He wondered: “What would happen if I put syrup in a barrel?” The discovery, through trial and error, was a revelation.

He began a quest to source the best barrels and perfected the craft syrup. The barrels that hold syrup for 6 months to 1 year then get another use as roughly a gallon of the syrup is absorbed into the wood, providing an environment that boosts flavors of other ingredients used in food prepration.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re adding products that would benefit from that (syrup),” Stallard said, noting the items are used in professional kitchens around the world but are equally friendly and adaptable in home kitchens by cooks of all skill levels.

DISCOVER THE STORE: The complete BLiS product line is available here

The recognition of BLiS products is long, including awards as best in show at the Bissel Maple Farm Craft Maple Syrup festival the past two years and a SOFI award from the Specialty Food Association for the best dessert topping.

The sauces, syrups, rubs and oils have also earned praise in nationally renowned magazines and food sites such as Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits and Bon Appetit as well as cooking show and media celebrities like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

On the horizon, BLiS teases, is a limited-edition Jamaican rum that will launch at Mammoth Distilling tasting rooms Labor Day weekend.

Check out the video below to learn more about Blis Gourmet products:

 

Here are five of the favorite recipes from the BLiS creative team:

Blis Gourmet vegetarian 'BLT'

Vegetarian “BLT” (sans bacon)

Ingredients:

  • Good whole grain bread
  • The best heirloom tomatoes available
  • 2 tbsp Duke’s or homemade mayo
  • 1 tsp BLiS rye aged apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce (per 3 slices of tomato)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic leaf lettuce (Bibb, Boston, Red Leaf, etc.)
  • Cracked black pepper

Method:

  • Marinate 3 thick tomato slices in BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce and olive oil for 45 minutes
  • Blend mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, and apply liberally to toasted bread
  • Layer with marinated tomatoes, lettuce, and top the tomatoes with cracked black pepper

Blis Gourmet chicken wings

Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds meaty chicken wings
  • Frying oil (we recommend peanut oil)
  • 5 cups BLiS “Blast” hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup BLiS bourbon barrel aged maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Method:

  • Fry wings until crisp and done
  • Combine hot sauce and maple syrup, and then whip in the melted butter until emulsified
  • Toss wings in sauce and enjoy

Blis Gourmet Elote (Mexican street corn)

Elote (Mexican street corn)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears fresh corn
  • 1/3 cup Duke’s or high-quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp BLiS Santa Fe spice rub
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Mexican crumbling cheese (we recommend Cotija)
  • Cilantro

Method:

  • Grill corn in husks until tender
  • Peel back husks and liberally spread the mayonnaise on the corn
  • Sprinkle with BLiS Santa Fe seasoning
  • Top with cheese, cilantro, and lime zest

 

Blis Gourmet Green Chile Bison Burgers

Green Chile Bison Burgers

Ingredients: (makes 2 burgers)

  • 1 pound ground bison meat
  • 5 tbsp BLiS smoked soy sauce
  • ½ tsp BLiS Elixir
  • Sliced Monterrey Jack Cheese
  • 1 large onion sliced thin
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 cups roasted, diced, and peeled hatch peppers or green chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Adobo spice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

Method:

  • Mix ground meat and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy thoroughly, let rest
  • Caramelize the large sliced onion, adding the maple syrup and elixir at the end to make an onion jam
  • Sauté the diced onions and garlic in olive oil until clear, add the chilies, spices and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy and cook for 15 minutes on low heat
  • Cook burger to medium rare, lightly grill the bun
  • Add heaping tablespoon of chili sauce, then sliced Monterrey cheese and melt the cheese. Add the onion jam on top of the cheese, and one more scoop of the green chilies.

 

Blis Gourmet lime glazed salmon

Lime Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

  • Four 5-6oz Salmon fillets – skin on – scaled (cross score the skin with a razor blade or very sharp knife)
  • Olive oil or 
Grape Seed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2T BLiS Blast Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce

  • 2T BLiS Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 small clove of minced garlic

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Prepare glaze by whisking Blast hot sauce, maple syrup, lime zest, lime juice, and garlic together in a small bowl.
  • Set aside.
  • Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt
  • Heat a liberal amount of grape seed oil in a large oven-safe nonstick pan over high heat until very hot
  • Place salmon in the pan skin side down (making sure there is plenty of oil beneath the salmon to prevent sticking)
  • Sauté for a few minutes until a crust begins to form
  • Remove from heat, spoon/brush some of the maple syrup/Blast glaze over the salmon (reserving about half the glaze)
  • Slide the pan into the oven and continue to cook the salmon until just cooked through
  • Remove from the oven and baste with the pan sauce
  • Plate salmon and spoon the remaining lime glaze over the salmon

Nursing Facilities Must Be A Priority in Fight Against COVID-19: Testing is Key to Prevention

A nurse checks a patient

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, particularly southeast Michigan, it became clear that this virus is most severe to our senior citizens. A shocking 69% of all of Michigan’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths were people over the age of 70. The average resident in our nursing facilities is 82 years old, often with multiple medical conditions. Therefore, it is no surprise that these individuals are particularly vulnerable once the virus enters a facility.

Through June, 46% of the state’s nursing facilities have reported no COVID-19 cases, and a significant number have reported fewer than 10 cases. This raises the question of what causes the spread in some nursing facilities but not others. The answer to that question will help determine proper policy going forward to prevent and curtail the spread among this highly vulnerable population in this highly vulnerable setting.

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Research recently released by Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago has important findings related to COVID-19 in nursing facilities that not only help explain the primary factors causing the spread, but also what does not cause it. The studies conclude that the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community is the main predictor of the virus entering a nursing facility, with larger facility size also being a factor. It further shows that no correlation exists between significant COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing facilities and various measures of overall nursing facility quality, such as the national Five Star rating system that rates all nursing facilities based on surveys, staffing levels and quality measures.

According to David Grabowski, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, “COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are related to facility location and size, not traditional quality metrics such as 5-star rating and prior infection control citations.”

Tamara Konetzka, professor of health services research at the University of Chicago, found “no meaningful relationship between nursing home quality and COVID cases or deaths.” Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reached the same conclusions.

Researchers from Genesis HealthCare, Brown University and Florida Atlantic University found that COVID-19 prevalence in the surrounding community and higher number of beds were the most significant and consistent predictors of large outbreaks and mortality rates among nursing facility residents — not a facility’s Five-Star Quality Rating or infection control citations.

At the onset of the pandemic, nursing facilities were not a top priority at either the federal or state level for adequate staffing, personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing. Attempts to control the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities instead focused on identifying individuals who exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and prohibiting their contact with residents and staff in nursing facilities. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now show that individuals without symptoms — “asymptomatic” and “pre-symptomatic” individuals — infect multiple people without ever showing signs of the virus themselves.

Given that the virus is often spread by individuals who are asymptomatic, the research notes that if a community has a high prevalence of COVID-19, there is simply a greater risk of new nursing facility residents or staff serving as infection sources. Larger facilities accept more admissions and have more employees, thus they encounter more movement of people to and from the community.

This research tells us that the best way to prevent and curtail the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities is to do whatever possible to prevent it from getting a foothold from the larger community in the first place. Providing sufficient PPE for staff and conducting more testing with immediate results are critical to this effort. Only through broad and aggressive testing that delivers immediate results can facilities identify those infected — staff and residents — and quickly take appropriate measures.

Although the state of Michigan has recently implemented short- and long-term strategies to establish universal baseline testing and ongoing testing of all nursing facility residents and staff — a measure which we support — it still takes too long to receive the results. A new testing instrument to be distributed soon by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promises to deliver results in minutes. If this works as suggested, it will give nursing facilities the capability to screen and test both residents and staff and provide the means to swiftly mitigate the spread of the virus.

Testing with quick results is also important to allow residents to visit with friends and family in person once again. Current restrictions have proven difficult for residents, families and staff. For visits to occur in a safe manner, adequate supplies of PPE and proper testing are essential.

We didn’t create this pandemic or choose to have it come upon us. There is no blame or finger pointing. We can make an enormous difference in the outcome of the COVID-19 battle in Michigan nursing facilities with the support from the state and our healthcare partners if we focus on the correct, research-driven solutions.

Please click HERE for further details on the research referenced above.

 

Melissa Samuel
President/CEO
Health Care Association of Michigan

Michigan coffee company’s future focused on 100% farm-direct sourcing

When Bob Fish, the co-founder of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, talks about the future of the business, some might be shocked to hear his assessment that “coffee as a product is unsustainable.”

But that’s exactly what Fish says and why Biggby is trying to change the equation.

And it starts with the goal and benefits of farm-direct sourcing 50% of Biggby’s 2 million pounds of coffee purchased each year by 2023. After that accomplishment, Biggby will set its eyes on buying 100% of its product from farmers with whom Biggby has a lasting relationship.

Here’s why that’s important and what it means both for Biggby and its farm partners:

There are more than 200 labor hours to produce a single cup of coffee, Fish explains. It includes a supply chain that involves farms, workers who are often mistreated, brokers, roasters and more middle layers that seemingly work against each other.

“Between climate change and traders driving the price down, farmers simply cannot economically survive,” Fish said. “So, what happens? The farms can’t make it and are being abandoned. This puts the whole supply chain at risk.

“We believe businesses are here to solve problems, not create problems, but that’s what’s happening in coffee, and it’s why we are focused on doing business directly with farmers that treat the planet right and treat their people right.”

The straight line from farmer to Biggby involves extensive research and travel to confirm that the grower has the same passion for social responsibility and community investment, Fish said. As part of the evaluation, Biggby requires:

  • Farmers who pay workers above the national average and employ no child labor.
  • Farms that employ sustainable and organic practices.
  • Farmers who engage others with strong and local social missions.

Fish and his wife, Michelle, visit farms and stay for days at a time, and at different times – during the growing, harvesting and off-seasons – to assess the commitment, he said. Biggby can be a stabilizing force for the growers, providing a premium payment by eliminating the broker/middleman and granting the farmer financial safety and security for their coffee. That allows for future investment in the farm and the community. It also ensures Biggby a sustainable pipeline of coffee for the future.

Follow the journey: Bob and Michelle Fish blog about farm-direct sourcing and local heroes

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

One of Biggby’s farm partners is the El Recreo Cofffee Estate in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There, Leanna Ferrey and her family have an established farm that pays its workers fairly, shares a quest for growing a quality product and displays a care for its people that goes above and beyond.

Ferrey established an on-site school for the workers’ children to attend through the fourth grade, and she does not allow youth to work on the farm. Each child earns a scholarship and transportation to attend school in a nearby town through high school. She helps them find a way to go to college, if they choose, Fish said. She’s also helped educate the workers, many of whom were illiterate, provide basic health care and provide certainty that there is food for three meals a day.

“It’s really just amazing what she and her family have done,” Fish said. “And this wasn’t because of us but because it’s what they believed in and how they think people should be treated. She is making a difference now and for future generations.

“It’s exactly what we want, and it fits with our belief that you should feel good about doing business with people. And to take that to the next step, we hope a consumer can feel good about doing business with us because they know what our establishment stands for.”

Biggby has a second relationship with a Zambian farm that supports an orphanage. Fish and his team are cultivating more partnerships that create an impact abroad and reflect the coffee company’s values.

“We could go out and get the cheapest coffee and continue to pressure the fragile coffee economy, but we’d rather put money directly in the hands of the farmers who are doing their best,” Fish said. “We want to be involved with people who care for and are engaged with their community just as we are with ours.”