Alway’s farm operations recognized for environmental stewardship.

September 16, 2016
From left: Dick, Rick, Tom, and Rob Alway.

From left: Dick, Rick, Tom, and Rob Alway.


AMBER TOWNSHIP — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) recently recognized Alway’s Shady Lane Farm, Inc. and Alway’s Farm  of Amber Township as a verified farm in the cropping system for implementing appropriate pollution prevention practices.

The program assists farmers to comply with state and federal environmental regulations and with Right to Farm practices. Technical assistance was provided by the Mason-Lake Conservation District.

“By taking the steps necessary to become an environmentally verified operation, Alway’s Shady Lane Farm, Inc. has contributed to the assurance of sustainable farming practices,” said MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams. “Michigan is leading the national agriculture community in effective stewardship practices with the voluntary, incentive-based MAEAP program. The continued success of the program demonstrates that environmental sustainability and economic development are not mutually exclusive.”

Alway’s Farm was established in 1928 by Walter Glen (W.G.) and Evalyn Alway of Scottville. W.G. was an attorney in Scottville and purchased the farm as a hobby farm. The original 40 acres of the farm sits on land that was homesteaded by the Towns family, who were the first settlers to Amber Township. W.G. and Evalyn’s son, Tom, along with his wife, Helen, lived on the farm and turned into a commercial operation. During the 1950s through early 1970s, the farm was one of the largest poultry farms in western Michigan. In 1966, Tom and Dick started Alway’s Implement Company, which sold John Deere tractors, along with Arctic Cat snowmobiles and Kawasaki motorcycles. The dealership closed in 1989, however Alway’s Service Center, now owned by Dick’s son, Rick, continues to operate.

Today, the 169 acre farm, located primarily on Johnson Road between Stiles and Amber roads, is owned by Dick and Carol Alway. Its primary crop is asparagus. Carol operates Alway’s Antique Mall on the property as well.

Alway’s Shady Lane Farm, named after the original name given by W.G., was established in 2015 by Dick’s sons, Tom, Rick, and Rob. Currently the farm operation raises three varieties of hops on a one acre plot, with plans to expand in the near future.

MAEAP is a collaborative effort of farmers, MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau, commodity organizations, universities, conservation districts, conservation and environmental groups and state and federal agencies.  More than 100 local coordinators and technical service providers are available to assist farmers as they move through the MAEAP process toward verification. An average of 8,000 Michigan farmers attend educational programs annually, 10,000 Michigan farms have started the verification process and over 3,300 verifications have taken place to date.

To become MAEAP verified, farmers must complete three comprehensive steps which include attending an educational seminar, conducting a thorough on-farm risk assessment, and developing and implementing an action plan addressing potential environmental risks. MDARD conducts an on farm inspection to verify program requirements related to applicable state and federal environmental regulations, Michigan Right to Farm guidelines, and adherence to an action plan. When completed, the producer receives a certificate of environmental assurance. To remain a MAEAP verified farm, inspections must be conducted every five years and action steps must be followed.

MAEAP is a multi-year program allowing producers to meet personal objectives, while best managing both time and resources. The program encompasses four systems designed to help producers evaluate the environmental risks of their operation. Each system – Livestock, Farmstead, Cropping, and Forest, Wetlands, and Habitat – examines a different aspect of a farm, as each has a different environmental impact. By participating in all four systems, producers can comprehensively evaluate their entire farming operation for potential environmental risks.

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