Twisted Maple Farm

I’ve driven past Twisted Maple Farm a million times and never stopped to appreciate its beauty. Now I can’t drive past their farm without driving slowly to take it all in. You see, I’m not only a farm lover, I’m a totally history nerd. And what a history this farm has!

 

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(Photos courtesy of Twisted Maple Farm)

Twisted Maple Farm in Whitehall, Michigan is a Michigan Centennial Farm, meaning it was owned by the same family for over 100 years. Locally known as the Durham Farm,the farmhouse and the barn date back to the late 1800s. The farm was purchased in 1876 by Samuel Zachariason who immigrated from Oslo, Norway in 1868. (click here for a link to a newspaper article about the farm shared by Remembering White Lake History Facebook Group). Still standing today are the farmhouse and a barn, which Twisted Maple is still using for their cattle.

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Part of my tour of Twisted Maple Farm included that historic 1860s barn. Cassidy showed me around, pointing out beautiful hand hewn beams, as we imagined what the farm must have been like back then. At that point, the railroad (where the bike trail is today), ran right past the farm. Cassidy and I wondered if people ever stopped by the farm as they traveled along the railroad tracks. According to the article shared by the Remembering White Lake History group, the family used the cleared railway tracks to get into town during the winter, and the railroad to get to Muskegon in the summertime. If only that barn could talk, the stories it would tell.

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Cassidy and Adam made the decision in 2016 to move from Lansing, where they attended college, to the Muskegon county area where they are from.  When Adam and Cassidy purchased the farm, the historic barn was in need of repair. Respecting the history the farm has in the community, the couple decided to start restoring the barn to its former glory. They began with having the foundation repaired, ensuring a safer area for their animals and a more structurally sound barn. The next major project will be having the roof repaired in order to protect the original hand hewn beams.

Cassidy showed me to their herd of Scottish Highland cattle. The couple chose to raise Scottish Highlands due to the high quality meat they produce, lower in cholesterol than most beef and full of beautiful marbling. Highlands are processed around at around 24 months of age, so the two steers they currently have will take another year before being butchered. This made me smile because I feel like even their choice of cattle pays homage to the history of the farm, a time when things were much slower than the fast-paced age we live in now. I have a feeling the beef Twisted Maple will produce will be well worth the wait.

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(If you want to see more of their beautiful Scottish Highland cows, check out Twisted Maple Farm’s Facebook page where you can find a collection of videos of their animals!)

 

Of course, what would a farm tour be without stopping off to see the wide array of farm animals being raised there.  From meat chickens to egg layers, ducks to pigs. Twisted Maple Farm was certainly full of wonderful sights and sounds, including the curious hen who followed us everywhere, even popping out of the bushes by the barn, startling us a tiny bit. Whereas I did enjoy my feathered farm tour companion, I enjoyed visiting the pigs even more. The pigs being raised at Twisted Maple Farm have access to pasture where they can root around and munch. They are also offered non-GMO feed to supplement their pasture grazing. I don’t know about you, but these look like some happy, content pigs.

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According to Cassidy, they use De Vries Meats in Coopersville, Michigan to process their pigs, which is a USDA Certified processing facility. If you’re looking to fill your freezer with pork for the winter, Twisted Maple will have pigs ready for processing in October. I have to say, my family sampled their bacon and ham steaks, and they were absolutely delicious (as in, I had to hide the rest of the bacon so my children didn’t devour it in one sitting). It’s no surprise that their pork is so delicious; healthy, happy animals produce higher quality, better tasting meat.

Speaking of high quality, great tasting meat, Twisted Maple also offers broiler chickens raised right there on their farm. Seriously, there’s no comparison to the meat from a farm fresh chicken. Not only does the meat taste amazing, the stock or broth you can make from them is beyond compare. Contact Twisted Maple about purchasing their farm fresh chickens to fill your freezer. Trust me, you will be thankful for this tip when it’s the dead of winter and you don’t have to rush to the grocery store to put a delicious, locally sourced meal on the table.

My tour of Twisted Maple Farm concluded with a conversation about what the future has in store for this historic farm. Cassidy said they would love to continue restoring the barn to its former glory. She also said one day she dreams of combining her life-long love of horses with her education in psychology to create a therapeutic farm. Cassidy grew up around horses on her grandmother’s farm and said she would love to share that passion for horses with others.

I have to say, Cassidy and Adam have already created a pretty therapeutic farm, whether they realize it or not. Stepping on to their farm is like stepping back into history. It gave me goosebumps to see the photos Cassidy shared of their farm so many years ago and realize I was standing in the same spot. A spot where children grew up, where trains passed, bringing people to and from our community, a spot where a family no doubt experienced hardship and happiness and still kept the farm running. I appreciate their respect for the history of the farm, sharing photos and stories about the farm. Restoring the existing barn when they could very well tear it down in favor of a modern pole barn. Choosing animals breeds based on quality, not on the speed at which they can be processed. Visiting Twisted Maple Farm certainly encourages you to step out of that fast-paced world many of us are accustomed to and slow down a little. Thank you, Twisted Maple Farm, for everything you are doing to not only preserve a piece of our community’s history, but also for raising your animals well, providing our community with high-quality local meat!

 

 

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Tortoise & Hare Farm

To tell the truth, I’m not quite certain how I came upon Tortoise & Hare Farm. I think I was searching for local farms offering CSAs and their name popped up. But what I do know is I am sure glad I stumbled upon them when I did. I’ve been following them on Instagram and Facebook for a few months now, cheering them on as they documented their journey starting up their farm. From their winter posts about tapping maple trees to their (still winter) posts about starting their plants indoors, to their (yes, winter is still here) posts about bringing their new “farmhand” home (hint: he’s big, white, fluffy and super sweet).

That brutal, never ending Michigan winter did not stop these two from trudging along on their farm. Not in the slightest. Krista and Brett have been busy building a hoophouse, a greenhouse, a chicken coop, and irrigation system. All while renovating their old farm house. Did I mention they also added bees to their farm this year? And they are growing over 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables? These two are unstoppable and I LOVE it!

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(In case you were wondering, the name of their farm comes from their nicknames for each other. If you want to know who is who, stop by their farm stand or see them at the Muskegon Farmers Market or the Montague Farmers Market and ask. Check their social media pages for info on where they will be each week AND on the hours of their own farm stand).

Let’s back up a bit and get to know a little about Krista and Brett. Krista hails from Ohio but found herself in Michigan, graduating from Baker College with an Associates of Applied Science in Physical Therapy. She then spent some time living in Grand Rapids. Brett found his way from Illinois (because all the cool kids come from Illinois, if you didn’t know), after graduating from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Plant and Soil Science. In my conversation with Brett, I just HAD to ask him where his Illinoisan loyalty lied: Sox or Cubs. If you’re from Illinois, you know the rivalry. And you know, even if you’re not a baseball fan, you still have to choose a side. I won’t hold it against Brett that he’s a Cubs fan. I couldn’t even ask my next question: Bears or Packers. I liked Brett too much to take a chance on him being a Packer’s Fan. Brett, if you’re reading this, and you’re a Packers fan, just don’t tell me. Let’s be friends. But I digress…

As I learned in our farm tour, the two always had a passion for gardening, specifically in ways that are sustainable and that protect the soil and water supply. When they decided to start their farm, they wanted to begin in Michigan, where they would find a nice 30 acre parcel of land to call their own. According to Krista, the property was once owned by a family who worked the land as homesteaders, raising their children and their own food. Still on the property are some established blueberry bushes and black locust trees (whose flowers are edible. Who knew?! Well, I didn’t, at least). Their home, an old farm house, is full of swoon-worthy beautiful old woodwork and farmhouse charm (I should add this is not normally part of the farm tour but my children have a knack for needing to use the bathroom everywhere we go, even if I made them use the facilities before we left the house. Thanks, Krista, for being so understanding).

One structure they didn’t have to build on their farm was a separate garage off Weber Road where they have installed a walk-in cooler and will soon have their farm stand! Staring June 21, they will have a farm stand where locals can stop by for eggs and produce, and,of course, to get to know their farmers. Check them out on Facebook and Instagram to find their operating hours and keep up to date on what they have to offer each week. While you’re there picking up your farm fresh produce, ask about a tour, so you can see where and how they grow your food. Also, ask about Duke, their irresistibly cute Great Pyrenees, lover of people and chickens.

My family took them up on the tour and were blown away by how much Brett and Krista have growing. Over 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables, from a delicious salad mix (which I highly recommend), to swiss chard, onions, garlic, broccoli, peas, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and much much more. Even better than the variety they have to offer is their commitment to raising their food as sustainably as they can, protecting the soil, the water supply and providing the community with healthy, nutrient dense food. And you know what I find awesome about that? If you want to know where your food is coming from, just ask! They were completely transparent with us about their farming practices and their belief about being good stewards of the land. We appreciated that quite a bit!

Starting in July, Tortoise & Hare Farm will offer a small CSA program for the peak of the season. If you’ve never tried a CSA, now is the time to give it a go! We tried a CSA when we lived in Wisconsin and loved that it not only gave us a chance to try a few vegetables we were not previously aware of (um, kohlrabi and swiss chard. I had never heard of those before), as busy parents, we appreciated the ease of pick up and not having to make so many trips to the grocery store. Have questions about their CSA? Contact Krista and Brett and ask away!

Want to know something awesome about Tortoise & Hare farm? Something refreshing and high-five-worthy? They talked to us about working with other farms in the area, knowing that together, they can ALL provide our community with healthy, high quality, good-for-us food! That’s not something you hear about in every sector, businesses helping out whom they might otherwise see as a competitor. But these two and the other small farms in the community are so passionate about what they do, they collaborate with each other. And they tell you about it. Because they love what they do, they want all the small farms around to succeed, and they root each other on. Now THAT is something I can, and will, get behind. Because it speaks volumes to their passion, their hard work and their character. I love hearing this because it gives me more motivation to get to their farm stands, to get to the farmers markets, to spread our money around this community, supporting as many local farms as we can. It feels good to know that when my family supports one local farm, we really are voting for a more sustainable future both environmentally and financially speaking.

Give Tortoise & Hare Farm a “like” on Facebook and follow them on Instagram to see all the progress they have made on their farm. Watch as they continue to grow and expand. They talked to us about one day having their honey for sale and possibly expanding their farm to include pigs. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Tortoise & Hare Farm!

Hidden Creek Farm

As I tour West Michigan farms, one thing I’m surprised to hear is that many of the farmers weren’t raised on farms. Crystal of Hidden Creek Farms falls into this category, telling me she was raised in the country but not on a farm. When I asked her how they learned so much if they weren’t raised on a farm, she replied they’ve learned along the way. And what a lot they have learned!

On my visit to Hidden Creek Farm, I was blown away by how much they have going on there, especially given their location, right off River Road. The first time I happened upon their farm, I was en route to a friends house, turning off Whitehall Road onto River Road. As I was driving, I saw their roadside stand and sign. Right there amidst family homes and small neighborhoods was an 18 acre farm, complete with chickens, goats, cows, pigs, quails and more.

 

 

Crystal started our tour with their mini-market they call their “Farmacy” (LOVE IT!), where customers can stop by and pick up some eggs, honey, and when available, maple syrup. They also have a fridge for their customers who purchase their goats milk, and freezer where they keep their broilers (and sidenote: we’ve purchased their broilers before. Delicious! Buy some, you won’t be disappointed!) I loved that in addition to the food products available for purchase, Hidden Creek also has an assortment of handmade earrings and necklaces made from molted feathers from their chickens. How cool is that?! On trend fashion that’s sustainable and local. Just as exciting are the tanks, t-shirts, handmade soaps and bows available for purchase. Ladies, bring extra cash when you pick up your farm fresh products, you won’t want to miss this!  And gentlemen, Mother’s Day is coming up. Imagine the brownie points you’d get if you made that Mom in your life an omelette bar brunch, adorned her with some fashionable jewelry and gave her some time to indulge in a shower or bath with some wonderfully smelling soaps. Just saying. (Wink wink, nudge nudge, dear husband of mine).

 

Next up was a trip to the barn where I saw some of their pigs. Unfortunately the piglets running around didn’t stop long enough for me to get a good photo op. But trust me, I wanted to squeal with delight (pun intended) at how cute they were. On the other side of the farm, I got to see more of their hogs, running around, being their curious natural selves. Crystal told me they raise registered Tamworth pigs, a heritage breed known for their great foraging abilities. The pigs at Hidden Creek are raised on open pasture and a woodlot and when fed grains, given only non-GMO locally milled grains. Coolest part: these pigs (and other animals on the farm) are fed pulp from Rootdown and Bodhi Tree, two local businesses. I LOVE this! ALL of this! From the humanely raised local meat to the local businesses supporting each other. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

 

After visiting the pigs, Crystal showed me their broiler chickens, cows, eggs layers and goats. They offer 1/4, 1/2, and whole cows, whole and half hogs, lamb, goat, turkey, and broiler chickens for those interested in filling up their freezers. (Coming from a someone who has ordered many sides of meat, you really should consider this. I absolutely love the quality of meat we get from local farmers, and the ease of always having meat to pull out of the freezer for dinners and cookouts). To learn more about their animals, check out their website and “like” their Facebook page. You will undoubtedly be impressed by how well they take care of their animals and be even more impressed by how amazing care and attention translates into better tasting meat.

 

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Of course a tour of Hidden Creek Farm wouldn’t be complete without touring their garden spaces, flower gardens and raised beds, prepped and ready for a busy growing season. During the growing season, you can stop by their roadside stand to enjoy some fresh produce and stunning flowers. You can also find Hidden Creek at the Sweetwater Local Foods Market each weekend, selling what’s in season on their farm, as well as those super chic pieces of jewelry and other handmade/homemade goodies. If you want even more farm to table goodness, Hidden Creek is partnering with local chef, Chef Damon Covington, to present a Farm to Table evening on July 14.  Hidden Creek is also hosting two FUN filled open farm events, May 19th and September 15. Check out their Facebook events to see all the other local vendors who will be present to make these events you won’t want to miss.

For a couple who wasn’t raised on a farm, Crystal and Lee sure have farming pretty well mastered. Their commitment to humanely and sustainably raised meats and non-GMO, chemical free produce shows their dedication to providing high quality and healthy foods to the community around them. Thanks, Crystal and Lee, for sharing your beautiful farm with me and for continuing to be honest and transparent about your food! Can’t wait to come back for your events and purchase more of your amazing food.

 

 

 

McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm

 

Last Saturday, my family decided to finally find Ryke’s bakery after our trip to the Muskegon Farmer’s Market. Driving down Laketon Avenue, we saw a bustling neighborhood with cars turning left and right, family homes, businesses, a hospital. Then, wait! Is that a greenhouse? It sure is! There, seemingly in the hospital parking lot, sits a small urban farm, right smack dab in the middle of all of this urban hustle and bustle. That urban farm is McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm, situated in the McLaughlin neighborhood of Muskegon.

After driving past this curious little farm, I couldn’t wait to meet farm manager Laurie Wieschowski and see what was growing at “McGrows”. I wasn’t sure what to expect given I was visiting a farm in March. But, oh my, is that farm already well on it’s way to a glorious growing season. Laurie first showed me their hoop house, where garlic and collard greens happily thrived and others rows were being prepped for planting. There I met Gage, the assistant farm manager, and Brietta, a member of YEP, a local youth leadership program who were both setting up irrigation lines.

 

 

Next I toured the green house where trays of microgreens, onions and leeks were soaking in the warmth of the green house. There Laurie told me how the farm works for the community that surrounds them, providing a “food forest” in front where anyone can come pick and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, and a children’s garden within the farm’s fences, with colorful raised beds that will soon be filled with fruit and vegetable plants kids can sample from. Laurie told me about how McGrows welcomes all, from preschool and school age children learning about growing a garden, to youth in the Youth Empowerment Project, learning the ins and outs of running an urban farm. Laurie also told stories of people who volunteer at the farm and keep coming back because they love it so much.

 

What captivated me the most about McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm was not just the plants growing in the hoop house and green house (although they were stunning), but more importantly, the stories. Brietta moved me with her story about starting at McGrows because she saw a flyer at school saying if she finished the program mentioned in the flyer, she would receive money. Very enticing, indeed. But she said she stayed because she loved seeing not just the plants growing around her but the relationships as well. How youth like her would start at the farm, unsure of getting their hands dirty. As the plants grew, so did their relationships with each other, their friendships, their confidence, their leadership skills, their connection to the plants they watched sprout up and produce healthy fruits and vegetables for the community around them.

Her story brought a tear to my eye because I could feel how important and powerful this farm was to many people in the community. Even though not much was in bloom at McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm during my visit, what’s always growing there year round is an honest, sincere and inspiring sense of a community coming together, getting their hands dirty and growing more than just food.

Next time you are at the Muskegon Farmer’s Market, stop at the McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm table and buy their greens and produce and herbs and whatever they have. (I’ve had their microgreens. Delicious!). When you invest in their food, you are investing in a community, in opportunities for our youth and the community to engage in growing high quality sustainable food.

And why stop at buying a bag of their delectable microgreens? Sign up for the CSA program and receive a weekly share of this urban farms harvest. Check out their website to see the variety of CSA programs McGrows offers.

Thank you, McLaughlin Grows Urban Farms for letting me visit! I cannot wait to come back and share your inspiring farm with my family.

Lundell Farms

One great pleasure in life is watching people talk about something they are passionate about. That thing that gets them out of bed in the morning, the thing that lights up their eyes, the thing that’s hard work but worth every moment spent on it. The thing that’s close to their hearts and they want to share with everyone around them.

That is exactly what I saw when my family and I visited Lundell Farms yesterday, which is just south of Whitehall in North Muskegon. Lori and John have such a passion and dedication for raising and growing the best quality foods they can, and proof of this is not just in their words but in their actions. We saw first hand how well they treat their animals, from the green house where they grow their own fodder to provide nutrient dense greens to their animals, to their awesome dog/farm hand Ranger who guards “his” animals with tremendous dedication (You can see his attentiveness in the photo below. He wasn’t taking his eyes off those small humans running around, just in case).

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Lundell Farms started with Lori and John wanting to grow and raise healthy, nutrient rich food for themselves. Slowly, they added on to their farm, clearing the woods to make way for a barn, pasture for their animals, and a garden for fruits and vegetables. John even planed some of the trees he cleared to use in the construction of their barn. In talking to Lori, I appreciated her honesty about how they care for their animals every step of the way to ensure not only the best quality meats for their customers, but also to ensure their animals live a healthy and happy life each day on the farm.

 

Lundell Farms believes in being good stewards to the land. For this reason, they grow their produce without using synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, making certain they can offer their customers high quality foods that are not only good for your health, but also good for Mother Nature. (Read more below and at the Lundell Farms website).

All of our produce is raised organically.  We start the natural process by being stewards to the land.  We continually work to improve our soil with organic matter.  On all of our property we refrain from using any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.  We spend plenty of hours weeding!  We compost the manure from our animals and use that as soil builder and fertilizer.  Our produce is started by using a majority of heirloom seeds from varieties that have been handed down for generations.  Heirloom varieties are never Genetically Modified and are known for their exceptional flavor.  They do not always look perfect like what you may be used to in the grocery store, but once you taste them, you will see why we believe heirloom is the way to go!
These are the practices that, we believe, gives our product a superior quality and flavor.

Before we left, Lori showed me the seedlings she is growing in their greenhouse, awaiting the arrival of spring and their new life in the garden. For customers who believe in what the Lundell’s do, Lundell Farms offers a CSA Program, which lasts 18 weeks and offers customers a portion of their wonderful produce each week for as little as around $20 a week for a family of four or $11 a week for a family of two. Read more about what they offer their CSA customers on their website. Lundell Farms also offers pork, lamb, turkey, chicken and eggs. Check out their website for more information on ordering meat from their farm.

My family and I enjoyed our visit to Lundell farms, so much so that my boys did not want to leave; they were having too much fun learning about the animals and stomping in the mud puddles. We look forward to returning this spring and summer to enjoy the delicious goodness available for purchase from Lundell Farms. Until then, thanks, Lundell’s for sharing your beautiful farm with us!