Posted by: Kath Usitalo | January 27, 2010

Eat, Drink, and Pick Berries

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula

Attention foodies:
The welcome mat is officially out for you in Michigan.

The recently formed Michigan Culinary Tourism Alliance (MCTA) will work to promote the bounty of homegrown edible and drinkable products by encouraging restaurants to use local wines and specialty foods and spreading the word about the state as a tasty travel destination.

It’s one of those ideas whose time has come in a state where tourism and agriculture are top industries.

Although folks around the globe have been hitting the road for food and drink since the days of nomadic hunter-gatherers, it was centuries before travelers were able to enjoy the luxury of imbibing for pleasure.

And the concept of culinary tourism as an industry has evolved only within the last 10 to 15 years. According to the International Culinary Tourism Association, “In its broadest sense, Culinary Tourism is defined as the pursuit of unique and memorable culinary experiences of all kinds, often while traveling, but one can also be a culinary tourist at home.”

By some definitions culinary tourism overlaps with agricultural tourism; between Michigan’s agri-tourism programs and the new emphasis on culinary tourism the state should enjoy greater appreciation of locally-grown foods and restaurants that feature them, of wineries and vineyards, farm tours, food-related festivals, cooking classes, foraging for wild mushrooms and berries, and visits to creameries, chocolate-makers, farmers markets, u-pick farms and orchards.

Jam from wild thimbleberries is a taste of the Upper Peninsula in a jar (illustration by Natasha Walters)

The inaugural Michigan Culinary Tourism promotion effort will highlight specific crops: wine grapes, cherries, cranberries, apples, peaches, blueberries, asparagus, maple syrup, honey, pumpkins, greens, and herbs and spices.

The MCTA is a cooperative effort of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan Restaurant Association and Travel Michigan, working with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with matching funds from the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.


The winner of the West Michigan Tourist Association’s Agri-Tourism Giveaway will get a taste of the Culinary Tourism scene: the prize is a private wine tasting and tour for up to 12 adults at Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery on Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City.



  1. Cool! I love the updates that you share – I’m not much of a traveler right now, but am storing away all sorts of fun places to go!

    • And be sure to enter the various contests—someone’s going to win; might be you!

  2. A very good idea to promote this lovely state for it’s bountyful goodness.
    I have always been a traveler who goes where the good food is. My vacations truly are planned with food in mind.
    It’s about time that Michigan will be known for more than car manufacturing.

  3. oh I fogot….Hi Kath 🙂

    • Hi Iris:
      I’ll drink to that 😉
      Could not agree with you more. With all the changes I find it hard to believe but tourism and agriculture are still listed behind manufacturing in size of industries, but no matter—they’re finally getting overdue attention.

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