US – Michigan State University (MSU) Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor has appointed Michael de Schaaf as the new farm manager.

De Schaaf, an agricultural service business owner with nearly three decades of winemaking experience, joined the MSU Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center (SWMREC) on 1st October.

As farm manager, de Schaaf will be tasked with day-to-day oversight of research projects, including those with fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops, as well as outreach through MSU Extension.

He will also partner with the center coordinator and staff to determine budgets, oversee maintenance of buildings and equipment, and develop and maintain relationships with growers and industries throughout the region.

“I have always been interested in the research at the station, even if it did not pertain to grapes,” de Schaaf said in a news release. “As the farm manager, I see my main responsibility as a project manager for the researchers, ensuring their research is supported and conducted as prescribed.”

He also touched on the need to maintain plots for MSU Extension so that faculty can demonstrate and interact with growers, all while maintaining equipment, buildings, and the grounds.

The center was established in 1989 and encompasses 350 acres in one of the state’s most diverse agricultural regions.

The center primarily serves the fruit and vegetable industries, but research also takes place with field crops, Christmas trees, and woody ornamentals.

Prior to the new role, de Schaaf had an array of roles in the wine industry, including as winemaker and distiller at Round Barn Winery, Distillery, and Brewery.

He leads Hickory Creek Winery; and is a grape producer at Meadowbrook Farms, his family’s fourth-generation farm in Benton Harbor. He is also a former president of the Michigan Grape Society.

As an educator in the viticulture and enology (study of winemaking) arenas, de Schaaf was an instructor at Lake Michigan College for multiple years.

Most recently, he has been the owner of Lake Michigan Shore Wine Growers, a custom vineyard management company.

“Most of my previous positions have been in startup ventures, so creative problem solving has been a must, and due to the fact that most startups don’t have large budgets, I have needed to wear many hats,” de Schaaf said in the release.

“I have been farming for close to 30 years now and have dabbled in tree fruit, livestock, and hay production, with my main focus on wine grapes. I think that has prepared me well to take on this new role.”

In addition to his winemaking background, de Schaaf studied sports medicine at Ferris State University.

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