The names of the people who live in the Sparta, MI, area are largely the same
names as those who settled the area in the 1840s.
"They are probably the same as they will be several generations down the
road," added Don Armock, president and a partner in Riveridge Produce
Marketing Inc. in Sparta, MI. It follows, then, that the area's farmers have
always had a deep interest in agricultural practices that will sustain the land
Mr. Armock said that the operations of Riveridge have a natural tendency to
be sustainable. Riveridge is an apple grower, packer and exporter,
representing some fourth-, fifth- and sixth-generation apple farmers.
In December, Riveridge announced that its Michigan Agriculture
Environmental Assurance Program received verification by the Michigan
Department of Agriculture. The company said the verification signified
“Riveridge’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Riveridge has become
an advocate of the MAEAP program and is strongly encouraging its many
partner farms to follow its lead.” This is a voluntary program created to help
farmers assess operations and implement sustainable business practices that
benefit surrounding communities, the environment and the financial viability
of the farm, he said.
The firm’s recent sustainability initiatives include new sprayer technologies,
natural pest-management techniques, eco-friendly packaging, recycling and
composting, all of which help reduce emissions and waste. Mr. Armock on
Dec. 31 told The Produce News that some of the interesting features of the
program include the building of bluebird and kestrel bird houses to attract
hunters of apple-attacking insects and the cultivation of native flowers and
plants to reduce erosion while attracting native bees. Barn owl habitats
decrease the need to exterminate tree-harming mice and voles.
Mr. Armock sees the value of the Michigan environmental program as not so
much to be a blueprint for integrated pest management practices, long-used
by Riveridge, but to be a tool to develop consumer appreciation of what is
happening. The firm has posted large signs along the roadside edges of its
orchards to bring the good practices to the attention of passersby.
“We think the typical consumer is at least two or three generations removed
from the farm in rural areas. No one knows how we grow food. We think
signage on farms and the verification program is part of the education.”
He added, “Our customers recognize that consumers have expectations along
In a recent Riveridge press release, Denise Donohue, executive director of the
DeWitt-based Michigan Apple Committee, stated, “Riveridge has recognized
environmental sustainability as being important to themselves, their growers
and neighbors in the community, as well as their customers. Earning the
MAEAP designation is the public stamp of approval that farming is being
conducted in an environmentally friendly way.”