When Paul Hubbell was growing up on a cherry farm, he remembers that whenever his dad and mom bought land they drove home a point: "To make it better for us and for the people around us."

That same philosophy led him to Lansing one day about eight years ago to learn the benefits of environmentally sensitive farming — like using less pesticide, conserving soil, controlling runoff. Since then, Hubbell has become a leading advocate for such practices, and eventually his family’s Orchard View Farms, in Williamsburg, became the first certified under the Michigan Environmental Assurance Program.

"Farmers say to me, "that’s government, I don’t want nothing to do with it. " Hubbell says. "I tell them, "that’s what I said at first, but when I looked at it, it made a lot of sense. " Today, thanks in part to Hubbell’s example, there are many MEAP- certified farms.

Sure the earth is better off, but so are Hubbell’s profits. An example: He bought a new sprayer with sophisticated electronics that cuts pesticide use in half — a huge cost savings.

"I really, really want to do everything I can to protect farming in this area so farming can stay farming forever, and with so much development pressure, that’s iffy," Hubbell says.

This article was updated for the web April 2008.