State grants ignite farm expansion


The financial assistance will allow Peterson Farms to create 54 jobs. Courtesy Peterson Farms

A West Michigan farm will be expanding its operation.

Shelby-based Peterson Farms will be expanding its processing line, production space and provide more employment opportunities courtesy of a partnership between The Right Place Inc., Oceana County Economic Alliance, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Community Capital and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The MEDC and Michigan Strategic Fund awarded a $1,000,000 Community Development Block Grant to Peterson Farms. It also received $3,150,000 in New Market Tax Credit Equity from Michigan Community Capital and PNC Bank and a $135,000 grant from the MDARD Michigan Food and Agriculture Investment Fund.

“Peterson Farms is grateful for our partnership with the MEDC, MDARD, MCC and Oceana County,” said Aaron Peterson, chief executive officer of Peterson Farms. “As we continue to pursue our mission of processing high-quality Michigan grown apples, blueberries, tart and sweet cherries and peaches to our customers’ varied specifications, we also are eager to help those communities in which we operate as well as those supporting Peterson Farms’ grower partners.”

Peterson Farms is the largest employer in Oceana County, employing up to 900 seasonal and full-time employees, and it produces over 150 million pounds of fruit products and 7 million gallons of apple juices and ciders on an annual basis.

The financial assistance will allow the company to create 54 jobs and make a capital investment of $22 million. Peterson Farms will expand its production line by acquiring juice bottling and applesauce lines from out-of-state facilities and get additional equipment for blueberry processing and apple peeling.

“Peterson Farms is a critical part of the Oceana County community,” said Jodi Nichols, business development coordinator for Lake and Oceana counties at The Right Place. “The variety of career paths and extensive employee benefits programs made available to residents by Peterson Farms are essential to our local economy, and this expansion is an exciting win for the region.”

The production space will have a 35,536 square feet expansion, which will allow the company to create more than 115 million additional pounds of fruit from growers in Oceana County and across the state of Michigan. 

“This expansion of Peterson Farms’ processing capabilities in Oceana County will have a positive impact on Michigan’s fruit growers market and agricultural supply chain,” said Jeff Mason, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are pleased to work with MDARD, The Right Place, MCC and other partners to continue to bring economic opportunities to all regions in the state and support Peterson Farms and the new jobs this expansion will bring to area residents.”

There is a tremendous amount of strategic growth happening in Michigan’s food and ag industry,” MDARD director Gary McDowell said, “but it’s especially gratifying to see all these groups come together and create new job opportunities or rural communities while giving a boost to growers across the entire state.”

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