President’s Letters

Summer 2022:

Dear Michigan Nut and Fruit Growers,

It is with great joy that I tell you, if you did not already know, that we have a summer meeting location: Bill Brinkerhoff (new member at the 2022 Spring Meeting) and wife Kathy Sample have invited us to Base Lake Farm.  They have about 2 acres of fruit and nut trees and about 200 acres of regenerative farming with grass fed beef.  The meeting is on July 16 and follows our typical farm tour format: noon potluck, business meeting, fundraising auction and farm tour.  We will have shelter in case of rain, so do not let a couple of clouds stop you from coming.

Base Lake Farm is a 7861 Strawberry Lake Road, Dexter, MI 48130.

Please plan to bring a chair, table service and possibly a dish to pass.  I know some are not comfortable bringing a dish to pass or are unwilling to participate in a potluck in our still-COVID world.  No problem.  Just bring your own, personal lunch.  No one will mind and we will still get to chat with you.  Win, win!  Not sure yet if we will have coffee, but for sure there will be a large cooler of ice water.  If you need the caffein fix to keep going, possibly bring your own thermos.

Looking forward to seeing our new members at the July MNFGA Meeting, some guests (all interested guests are welcome) and all of our current members, people I consider friends and people with whom I enjoy chatting to find out what’s new at your place and how you are doing.  I enjoy that we are a group of friends who share many interests, especially the interest of growing our own fruits and nuts rather than just going to the store to buy them.  Sure, it is more challenging, but there is no way the best store has fruits or nuts that compare flavor wise, or nutritionally, to anything you can walk out to your deck, yard or orchard and pick for fresh eating.  And, with some additional care and work, you can store those fruits and nuts for use all year.  As an example, the ingredients in my lunch yesterday included black walnuts, mulberries, persimmons, pears and sorghum seeds: all from our 2021 crop.  Pretty awesome.  I am grateful for all of the guidance and suggestions from my MNFGA friends that makes my homegrown ingredients possible.

Thank you, Bill & Kathy, for offering your farm for our Summer Meeting! 

Another item of great joy was the presentation of Outstanding Achievement Award at the Spring Meeting to Bill Nash of the Nash Family and Nash Nursery.  Not sure if anyone has been as loyal, generous and supportive of MNFGA as Bill and his family.  Bill continues as our Resident Agent and as a great resource of knowledge and helpfulness to our organization.  His PowerPoint presentation at the Spring Meeting was very interesting.  MNFGA has visited the nursery several times as a group and a couple of years ago, when we needed to pot trees for the grafting class, Bill and the nursery were there with all of the supplies and then took care of the potted trees until the following spring, during our COVID period.  There are many other examples of the kindness and generosity extended to MNFGA by Bill.  Thank you, Bill.

If you were at the Spring MNFGA Meeting, you know that we have two new members on the Board, and a bunch of carryover members too.  Levi Clark and PJ Chmiel are replacing Tom Latterner as Directors-at-Large…yes, it took two to replace Tom!  Thank you, Tom, for your years of service and support as Director-at-Large.  You are definitely a man with lots of enthusiasm and many thoughtful, clever ideas, definitely deserving of the title, Black Walnut Guy.  I look forward to the wisdom and enthusiasm that Levi and PJ will bring to the Board.  My predecessor, President Trevor Newman, is still too busy in his new job to be able to participate with MNFGA activities.  Consequently, with Trevor’s permission, Mike Dority will serve officially as our Past President, continuing his support of the Board because our Bylaws allow two past presidents to be on the Board.  Mike was President prior to Trevor.  Thank you, Mike, for your willingness to stay on the Board.  And thank you to the rest of the Board for your willingness to support MNFGA as Board Members.  Your input helps keep MNFGA going in a direction of interest to everyone.

While thanking everyone, I want to thank Cecelia and Jim Fydroski and Marc Boone for working at the “Pollineighbor Celebration” in Novi, MI at the MSU Tollgate Farm on June 18, 2022, 11am to 4pm. The weather was windy but absolutely gorgeous.  It was the inaugural year for this hopefully annual event.  We met some very eco-minded, grow-your-own kind of people and picked up some new members.  I always enjoy seeing the children crack walnuts and hazelnuts and then for them and their parents to taste them for the first time.  It is so common to hear them say that they did not know they were edible and have been tripping over them in their yard for years.  The effervescent and hard-working Katie Gallagher, Education Garden Leader, Michigan State University Extension, Tollgate Farm, did a lot of work to make this event happen.  Turnout was not huge, but not bad for an inaugural event.  Our hats off to Katie!  And, not to be left out, Clay and Julie Ottoni were there as well, with their beekeepers hats on, at the booth next to ours.  The molded beeswax items attracted a few interested bees and many curious people.  Nice work Clay and Julie.

An item that remains open for MNFGA is a possible recipient for a research donation or investment.  We voted at the Spring Meeting to put money into the Fremont Area Community Foundation.  However, upon getting further into the details of this foundation, it has been decided not to proceed.  If you know of a research project that would benefit from a donation from MNFGA, please contact a Board member.

We would like to have a Fall Meeting.   Where will it be?  We are still looking for a farm to visit for the Fall Meeting.  Anyone willing to share their farm with us?  Let me know.  Our backup plan is solid in that we have a standing invitation to visit Rogers Reserve in Jackson.   It is a great location for our meeting, but we have been there before so seeing a new farm would be interesting too.  If you have questions about being our Fall Farm hosts, please ask.

I hope that your trees, vines and plants are as fruitful as ours here in Eagle.  Wow, 2022 is going to be a bumper crop for us, barring attacks of insects, bad weather or bears (yes, a wild black bear was seen less than 2-miles from our home two weeks ago).

And, speaking of our home here in Eagle, MI, I cannot let my gratitude for my wonderful wife, Julie, go without being thanked.  She tolerates a lot of time I spend on MNFGA things and is the picker and processor for a lot of the fruits.  Without her tolerance and hard work, the aforementioned lunch of goodness would not have happened.  That would be a bummer.

Best regards to you and to the many to whom I should also have thanked for contributing to make MNFGA the great organization it is!  Looking forward to seeing you in July.

Dennis Strahle

MNFGA President

Eagle, MI


Spring 2020 President’s Letter

Please note: the Spring 2020 Letter was written prior to the full power of COVID-19’s attack on our ability to gather in large groups.  Five of the events noted below are CANCELLED.  Please see the “Event” tab of this website for the current list of events NOT cancelled due to COVID-19.  The good news is that the work you do in your yards and orchards, by yourself or with your family, is not being stopped by the virus.  Go outside, where you can, get some fresh air, spend time with family, give your trees and plants some well-deserved attention, stay safe, stay smart and stay 6-feet apart. 

Spring 2020 MNFGA President’s Letter

18 February 2020

Hi MNFGA Members!


Here we are at the dawn of another growing season in Michigan.  I can say that because I was in the woods last week and noticed tiny, red spots on the forest floor’s blanket of snow.   Puzzled at first by what animal was losing so much blood, I figured out that it was pieces of red, maple buds that were blowing off from the tree canopy 100 feet up.  It is early, but the maples are getting underway for 2020.  Your Michigan Nut & Fruit Growers Association Board has also been busy getting underway for 2020.

CANCELLED The first event of the year is being worked on by Marc Boone and you!  Maybe you are not fully involved yet, or maybe you are: have you been to to sign up for the March 12 – 15 Lansing Home & Garden Show?  We need volunteers to staff the booth to sell memberships.  The sign-up is online at or you can contact me to set up a time.  The shifts are Thursday from 3 pm – 6 pm and 6 pm – 9 pm, Friday noon – 4:30 pm and 4:30 pm – 9 pm, Saturday 10 am – 1:30 pm, 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm and Sunday 11 am – 2:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5 pm.  Please know that you do NOT need to be an expert to staff the booth.  You just need to present a friendly smile and a willingness to explain a little bit about MNFGA and possibly why you joined.  We can record the rare, tough questions to be answered later! …a good way to get potential new member’s contact information. 

CANCELLED The second event of the year was set up by Clay Ottoni: the Pruning Workshop to be held at the MSU Tollgate Farm in Novi, MI on March 21.  Please see information about it elsewhere in the MNFGA News.  You can sign up online at     Note that MNFGA members get $10 off from the public’s $30 cost of the class.  Pizza lunch is included in the price.

CANCELLED The third event is the April 18, 2020 Spring Meeting.  This is something we all work on to make it successful.  Marc Boone is coordinating the scion swap.  We plan to have the scions displayed in a separate classroom this year.  Please plan to individually label ALL scions you might be bringing.  Also, if you are in need of a specific scion, send me an email and I will send out an email to the entire group with your request.  Marc Boone is doing double duty in that Marc is our featured morning speaker: pawpaws!  Marc has an excellent pawpaw orchard and lots of experience that he can share.  We will definitely save time for Q & A.  The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) is going to provide a speaker to talk about home use of pesticides and herbicides.  Jim Fydroski is coordinating this as our afternoon speaker, also with a good amount of Q & A time.  The business meeting will include officer elections: most critical this spring will be to elect a new secretary: Dan Foster’s term is up and he cannot continue an additional term. Please consider volunteering to be our secretary and please thank Dan for serving as our secretary these past two years.  You are also free to volunteer for any of the other positions on the inside front cover of the MNFGA News…some have been in place for MANY years and could use a break.  We will have our business meeting starting at 10:00 and then the fundraising auction in the afternoon.  Special this year is a large tree order that Mike Dority coordinated with Grimo Nut.  Linda Grimo spoke to us last June about hazelnuts.  Ordering is closed.  Mike will have the trees ready for pick up at the meeting.  Thanks Mike!  The Nut Evaluation will be reported at the meeting: you can still send me samples for evaluation or bring them to the Garden Show or Pruning Workshop to hand to me in person.  Spring Meeting agenda and directions are elsewhere here in the MNFGA News.

CANCELLED: The fourth event is a Grafting Class for the Lowell area homeschoolers.  This event is planned for April 2, a Thursday.   If you are willing to help instruct, please let me know WELL in advance: do NOT just show up.  The adults need to be background checked ahead of the event.  This event has kind of done the modern thing and gone “viral!”  We opened it to 25 students and it overshot that within 24-hours!  We are presently planning two sessions on April 2.  This is good news toward getting some young people inspired about growing trees.  Yay!  This is NOT open to the MNFGA general membership.

CANCELLED The fifth event is the MNFGA Grafting Class on May 2, 2020.  This is to be held at the MSU Ag Engineering Building…same as our Spring Meeting.  The charge is $10.00.  You can sign up with Cecelia or me and then pay at the door.  Per the Fall Meeting discussion, we will be grafting apples, pears AND persimmons and pawpaws.  You should be seeking your scions now!  There will be scions at the Spring Meeting and a few at the grafting class.

The sixth and seventh events for the year are not yet defined:  we do not have any farm or nursery tours set up for 2020.  Maybe you are willing to offer your farm or nursery?  MNFGA will pay up to $500 for tent, potty and supplies as needed for you to host the group.

Wow!  We will probably have 7 events in 2020.  I wish that Gordon Barlow was here to see this.  As a Board Director, he suggested that we have more than 3 events in a year.  If you were not aware, Gordon was honored posthumously for his and his wife’s (Jane Barlow) work in support of MNFGA.  Jane received the traveling “MNFGA Distinguished Service Award” late last year with her and Gordon’s name on a new plaque on the award.   Thank you Gordon, Jane and all who work to make our organization a great organization!

I am looking forward to seeing as many of you who can attend the events noted above!

Dennis Strahle

12833 W. Clark Road

Eagle, MI 48822




PS: most of you already know a little about the events above from an email I sent out in December 2019.  If you are not on the email distribution and have an email address, please email me so that I can add you to the distribution.  If you do not have an email address, maybe a family member does?  Emails are so handy and efficient!


President’s Letter Fall 2019


Dear Members of Michigan Nut & Fruit Growers Association,


I hope that this finds you well and excited to attend the fall meeting of MNFGA on Saturday, October 5, 2019 at Tom and Kathleen Wilmoth’s farm at 7891 Wiggins Road, Howell, MI 48855.  We will start with a noon potluck, have a business meeting, a SHORT auction fundraiser (please limit donated items to a nut & fruit-related theme) and then a tour of the greenhouses and some very interesting growing techniques Tom has been developing in the greenhouses.  Thank you, Wilmoth’s, for sharing your farm with MNFGA!


We will have a tent so please come rain or shine.  Please bring your own table service, a dish to pass and a chair.  We will be renting a limited number of chairs, so we hope you can bring your own.


In other business, we are about 450 followers on the MNFGA Facebook page.  The MNFGA website ( gets typically 10 to 20 views per day.  Many people are looking for fruit and nut information.  If anyone is good at working on a website, the Board would enjoy hearing your ideas and even better having you help make/keep the website inviting, informative and enjoyable.


The final highway clean-up for the Adopt-A-Highway program is September 14 – 22.  Please contact me if you are interested in a walk along the I-96 freeway between M-100 and Grange Roads east of Eagle, MI anytime during that week.


If you have a nut tree (any variety) in Michigan and would like to know how the nuts compare to other nuts around the state, please plan to provide 10 nuts to me by the end of January, 2020 for the annual Nut Evaluation.  You can bring them to the October 5 meeting or mail/deliver to me in Eagle.


We did not get enough volunteers to sign up for a booth at the Michigan State Fair in Novi over Labor Day Weekend.  Can we get enough volunteers to staff a booth at the Lansing Home & Garden Show on March 12 – 15, 2020?  I am hoping we can.  It was a good show and generated a number of new memberships and general interest.  Please let me know if you would be willing to help.


We tentatively are planning for a homeschooler’s grafting day on Thursday, April 2, 2020 at the MSU Clarksville Research Station.  A group of homeschoolers from Lowell has requested the event. This will take some careful planning and attentive assistants!


There are not any farms set up for a tour in 2020…we are looking for hosts.  Could it be your farm?


MNFGA would be non-existent without the work of many hands and minds.  MNFGA is grateful to the Board and active members who keep MNFGA going.  If you are not presently involved with the growth and maintenance of our organization, please consider volunteering to help.  There is so much more we could be doing.  Elections for new officers are in the Spring of 2020.  Maybe it will be time for you to share some of your time and talent as a Board member with the organization? 


I look forward to seeing as many of you as can attend the October 5 meeting.


Dennis Strahle

MNFGA President



This was written prior to the July 13, 2019 Summer Meeting:



Welcome to the growing season!


Did you do some grafting this spring…or still planning to do some in the case of walnuts? I am happy to report that some my Sault Saint Marie crabapple scions are growing. This was a test of a pre-dormant harvest of scions. My wife and I were in Sault Ste. Marie in October when the leaves were still green. With the owner’s permission, we cut some living scions. They were put in water and stayed in water until December. The scions seemed to undergo normal, fall leaf drop and then were cut to scion storage length, ends dipped in wax and put into the refrigerator with a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. They survived the ordeal and are now growing on my rootstock this summer. Yay!


The summer meeting is Saturday, July 13, 2019 at the Charles and Wilma Leik (rhymes with like) Farm at 9339 S. Keefer Highway, Portland, MI 48875. If you drive west of Portland via I-96 or Grand River Avenue, you know that there is a large John Deere dealership west of town. Charles’ farm is about 1 ¼ mile south of the dealership. Charles has spent considerable time and energy restoring this historic family farm and has been planting fruit and nut trees as well. It is a beautiful farm and MNFGA is grateful to have the summer meeting there. Please plan to bring a dish to pass for the noon potluck start. It will also be helpful if you can bring your own chair and table service. Coffee and water will be on tap. We already have several items for the auction and you are encouraged to bring additional items. After the potluck, we will have a short business meeting, the auction and then the farm tour. What a great time to see your MNFGA friends, historic buildings and some interesting tree plantings.


Regarding the auction items we already have: you are probably aware that long time MNFGA member, MNFGA Director and auctioneer Gordon Barlow passed away on March 12, 2019.   Gordon died with thoughts of planting more nut trees and he had requested that he be buried with a black walnut in one hand and an English walnut in the other hand…and so he laid in the casket at the funeral home with a walnut in each hand. It made me smile despite my sadness at seeing him pass. When we get there, God willing, I believe Gordon will have expanded (or started?!) the walnut grove in heaven! Toward his earthly goals, his wife, Jane, has donated Gordon’s nut growing and processing equipment to MNFGA for the auction. We have a black walnut husker (this is a large, electric-powered unit and will require transport in a pick-up or trailer…I can send you photos if you wish or you can see it on the MNFGA Facebook page), various Rootmaker© pots and air rooting containers, hand-powered nut crackers, 7 pairs of drying screens, some books and grafting glue and a homemade chestnut slicer (made by Gordon’s son-in-law). Thank you, Gordon and Jane, for all of your contributions to MNFGA, both recently and through the years.

Auctions are a fun and beneficial way for MNFGA to raise funds and thereby keep our membership fees low. Where else can you get all of this for $8.00 per year?! We learned about mushrooms in the spring, we had a grafting class in April and now we have two farm tours coming up. Tell your friends about us. They can get to know us on Facebook: Michigan Nut & Fruit Growers Association or at


The fall meeting will be on Saturday, October 5, 2019 at the Tom and Kathleen Wilmoth Farm in Howell, MI. Tom has been working on some very interesting growing projects in his controlled environment greenhouses at 7891 Wiggins Road, Howell, MI 48855. We will see some new twists on growing, compliments of a guy who is willing to try new things. Another great thing about the fall meeting is that so many of you are very creative and generous with the Michigan nut and fruit dishes that you bring for the potluck. If only we could bottle some of that deliciousness to share with anyone who is on the fence about growing their own fruits and nuts…our membership would grow like crazy. However, I do admit that I like the current size where we can meet in small venues and chat and have fun. Potluck starts at noon and the meeting, auction and tour follows.


Thank you, Charles and Tom, for volunteering your farms for our 2019 farm tours. The farm tours are a treasured part of MNFGA. If you would be willing to host MNFGA in 2020 or beyond, please contact a Board member.


There were a couple of volunteers for the Adopt-A-Highway cleanup this spring, but the cold, rainy weather made it difficult to coordinate. The summer and fall pick-ups (July 13-21 and September 21-29) will hopefully have better weather and make it easier to coordinate volunteers. Please let me know if you can help. There were 79 bags of trash for the spring clean-up after the long winter. The summer and fall pick-ups will be much lighter duty. This will be our last year of this endeavor.


Hank Frechtling will bring the Roger Miller Memorial Library collection to the summer meeting. You are most welcome to check books out of the library to read until the next meeting. If you have one/some on lone presently, please plan to return them to the July meeting if you can.


As it has been a challenge for our secretary, Dan Foster, to keep up with his very busy career AND MNFGA secretary duties, Dan has asked that this be his last year as secretary. So, if you would like to nominate someone for the spring 2020 elections as secretary (you can self-nominate!), please contact a Board member. Dan would relinquish his duties sooner if someone offered!


MNFGA has displayed at the Michigan State Fair for the last 4 years. It has been a challenge to gather enough volunteers for this Labor Day weekend event. Consequently, coordinator Marc Boone has been at the Fair from 10 am to 10 pm most all of the days of the fair and has been there to set it up the day before the fair as well. If we are going to continue the Michigan State Fair display, we must have more volunteers. Please look at your calendars prior to the July 13 meeting and be prepared to sign up for some blocks of booth staffing. If we cannot get enough staffing, we will not be at the Michigan State Fair. If you cannot be at the July 13 meeting but are available to volunteer, please let me know via phone or email ( It is not mandatory that MNFGA has a booth at the Fair. If we cannot staff it sufficiently, we will not have a booth. If you are a member because of Marc’s generosity of time spent on the Michigan State Fair, please let me know. We curious to know if the Fair is a good event for getting new members. The Fair is August 28 to September 2, 2019.


I look forward to seeing you all at the Leik Farm on July 13, 2019 for the noon potluck and more!


Happy growing.


Dennis Strahle

MNFGA President

Eagle, MI