Michigan farms and food processors were awarded millions in grants to mitigate risks of COVID-19 and reimburse for expenses related to the virus, including six from Mason County, according to a press release.

The Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants went to a total of 177 farms and 159 food processors were awarded $15 million, the release stated.

Another grant was also created, the MEDC Small Farm Safety Grants, based on the high demand and gave $567,000 to small farms for COVID-19 risk mitigation.

The grants used of CARES Act funds and were processed through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Five Mason County farms and food processors, which had 10 or more employees, received funds through the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants. One small Mason County farm, with fewer than 10 employees, received funds through the (MEDC) Small Farm Safety Grants.

Of the 124 small farms that were awarded funds through the grant, the Mason County farm owned by Corliss Theodore Gulembo III, Fountain, received $5,000.

The Mason County farms and food processors with that qualified for the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grants were Couturier Blueberry Farm in Ludington, House of Flavors in Ludington, Indian Summer Cooperative in Ludington, Larsen Farms in Scottville and Orchard Market in Free Soil.

Orchard Market received $34,000 from the grant.

Teresa Malkowski, co-owner of Orchard Market, said they applied based on the recommendation from someone in the program, and the amount they received was perhaps more than they needed.

“We have certain (personal protective equipment) items we use in the farm operations and the market and used (the funds) for both — like gloves, masks and extra wash stations,” she said.

The farm had to have wash stations during the u-pick seasons, she said.

She said the grant funds would have been good for migrant housing expenses, but that Orchard Market doesn’t have migrant housing.

The grant covers COVID-19 related expenses from June 1 to Sept. 15.

“It would have been helpful to have sooner,” she said. “We opened in May and had expenses at that time. We put safety protocols in place, and it would have been helpful to have (the funds) sooner.”

Malkowski said they are still discussing how to use the rest of the funds.

The grants were awarded on a first come, first serve basis and helped to retain 26,003 jobs with 26 percent of grants being awarded in geographically disadvantaged areas, the release stated.

Total Agricultural Safety Grants were divided between agricultural processors and farms with 10 or more employees as follows with $10 million in grants to 159 processors statewide and $5 million in grants to 177 farms statewide.

A full list of awardees for both programs is available at michiganbusiness.org/agsafety.

Applications for both programs were processed by East Lansing-based GreenStone Farm Credit Services.

The authorizing legislation for the Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant program requires reporting on the program’s results by Thursday, Oct. 15 to the legislature and State Budget Office. That report will be available on michiganbusiness.org/agsafety.

To learn more about MEDC’s COVID-19 response programs and the impact they are having on economic recovery efforts, visit michiganbusiness.org/covid19response. Other resources for economic reopening efforts as well as businesses across Michigan struggling with economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19.