Remember When …



February is one of the sweetest months of the year with the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Making a warm pot of soup or even baked goods inside helps with these bitter cold temperatures outside.

It’s a good thing Michigan has nearly 10 million acres of farmland according to “Pure Michigan” website. Sugar is one of the oldest commodities in the world and started with sugar cane being chewed in prehistoric 8,000 BCE. By 1747 CE a German chemist Marggraf, found sugar in beet roots and this is what we grow here.

The Michigan Sugar Company started in 1906. Michigan is sweet to me just like a happy heart and third largest sugar beet growers in the U.S. and in sugar production and Louisiana is number one. What is your favorite thing to bake in the winter, cookies or bread? Old flour grist mills started in the 1800s as the settlers move in Genesee County and all over the state.

I love to cook, and I am glad we have our own maple syrup, apples, tomatoes, milk and wheat in the cold months. Michigan is number sixth in production of dairy products in the country. We have it all here, from apple cider in the fall, to coffee roasting, 357 craft-beer brewing companies to 140 vineyards that make their own wine, all over our state.

We are very different than other states. Our presidents were farmers, and George Washington would say “be prepared for everything” so he grew his own food and made his beer. Americans need to get back to being their own farmers and take care of our land. This will help with the waste and climate control!

Let’s talk about the opposite of sweet, sour. In 1659 Dutch settlers brought pickles to Brooklyn keeping an eastern European tradition alive. They even had the first pickle pushcart by the 1900s. Did you know that Michigan has just the right sandy soil to grow cucumbers? Pickling is a way to preserve food and it started in 2400 BCE found by archeologists in ancient Mesopotamia and in India 2030 BCE. History of pickles was even being mentioned in the Bible in the book of Numbers 11, so starting more than 3,000 years ago.

There are 5,200,000 pounds of pickles eaten every year in the U.S.A. That is 9 pounds each! Salt mines are in Detroit and vinegar is made there too. Vinegar is for cleaning, pickling, fermented food and is healthy for us with vitamins to boot. Did you know we have 10 million acres of pickling cucumber farms in our state? We are the number one producer of pickling cumbers in America as of 2016 according to the Michigan farm bureau.

Frank Vlasic moved to Detroit 1912 to make a better life and started the Vlasic Company as we know it today, pickles of all kinds, with factories around our state. Mr. Heinz in 1893 went to the World’s Fair in Chicago and won a prize for pickles, and in 1897 in Holland, MI his pickle company was called Freestone Pickle Co. (before becoming Heinz.)

Thankfully, the restaurants are opening again (you can even get a pickle on your plate). We are blessed in Michigan, as we have everything we need, for farm to table restaurants to live in our own state. We started to farm cucumbers before the First World War and in 1907 in Michigan the pickling business grew and now sending cucumbers across America. Let’s start every day with a smile, being kind; being mean is like being sour vinegar and being sweet is like sugar and spice and everything nice. Which are you?

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email