I spent my teen age years and much of my adult life in Berrien County, Michigan. Berrien County is in the southwest corner of the mitten state and holds a significant place in the agricultural history of the United States.
- For decades, the Benton Harbor Fruit Market was the largest market of its kind in the world.
- Due to its proximity to Chicago, the county remains a key supplier for the city’s restaurants and grocers.
- Berrien County held the record for the greatest number of fruit and vegetable varieties.
Until the late 1960’s, the area had only one or two wineries, and the grapes grown were American varieties such as Concord and Niagara. In 1966, my father, interested in growing grapes to make wine, purchased a 30-acre farm near Baroda in Berrien County. He knew that American varieties were not known for the best wine, so he started educating himself on varieties that would make much better wine. In 1967 we planted our first vines.
One year later, two business men from Chicago purchased a neighboring farm and planted wine grapes in mass. Their venture, Tabor Hill Winery, was clearly a pioneer in Michigan’s infant fine wine industry. In time, Tabor Hill gained recognition for their wines. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford started serving Tabor Hill wines in the White House. Over the next decade, Tabor Hill continued to drive transformative change in Berrien County’s wine industry.
Today there are nearly about 20 wineries in Berrien County. Ten of these are within four miles of Baroda. In the spring of 2018, Wine Spectator identified the first Berrien County wine in its magazine as a 90-point Cabernet Sauvignon. They have come a long way in 50 years.
Len Olson and Carl Banholzer started their winery in 1968. Len remained an active force in transforming Berrien County’s wine industry for nearly 20 years, and then returned in 2009 to open his last winery, Baroda Founders. Len is a great example of a transformative leader. He found his passion, was convinced there was a better way, and transformed this into his life’s purpose. Today, Berrien County has a thriving wine industry as a result, in part, of his efforts.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,