Farmers and Artisans of Boyne City Winter Market: A Roving Interview
During the deep freeze of our Northern Michigan winters can be found three hardy bastions of good food and warm community: the winter farmers’ markets of Traverse City, Petoskey and Boyne City.
Who are these people, the vendors who rise early for market come snow, ice or wind chill, bringing their wares so that others may enjoy the fruits of their livelihoods and artisanal passions?
Join us for a strolling interview as roving reporter (and farmer herself) Mary Brower tours the Boyne City market and shares a bit of her fellow travelers’ stories with Edible Grande Traverse.
Mary Brower: Who has been the biggest influence on you as a farmer? What did that person teach you?
Kelly Doyle and Patrick Scharinger, Daybreak Dream Farm: Hands down, our biggest influence has been other local area farmers. We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without them. From internships to farm guild meetings and simple side-chatting with our neighbors at the farmers’ markets, we’ve learned more about growing in Northern Michigan than we could anywhere else. Our farm community is an amazing resource with local knowledge about pests, seed varieties, markets, weather and soil—something you can’t learn about in any book. We’re so grateful for our farming friends!
MB: What has been the happiest moment of your farming life so far? The saddest?
Waneta Cook, Cook Family Farm: It’s hard to narrow down one single moment that was the happiest for us. What makes me the saddest is that Grandpa Jones, the man who sparked our love of farming, passed away before he could meet each of our children—that he wasn’t able to watch us build our farm. I’m so thankful, though, for being able to work alongside our children every day, doing something we are passionate about. We have been able to teach our children the importance of working hard for something that you believe in—raising animals in a healthy and clean environment.
MB: What do you hope your children will understand someday about your life as a farmer?
Kafui (K.K.) Okai-Adjei, Pond Hill Farm: Farming is a dynamic activity passed from generation to generation. It evolves around us as we grow. In my family, farming was passed from my grandfather to my dad, and now I am holding the fort as the third generation. My grandfather was a cocoa farmer. My dad was a seed scientist who worked with the ministry of food and agriculture in Ghana, and now I am here in the United States managing a farm.
I would love to see my children and all the young people of today becoming more involved in community farming, to embrace local food, and to support farmers. Eating what you grow, or buying it locally—that is what we are all aiming for. It’s the richest legacy I have to preserve.
MB: Can you tell us about someone at our winter market who has been kind to you?
Ken Allen, Ken’s Fresh Fish: This winter, K.K. of Pond Hill Farm has given me the great kindness of his friendship. The close proximity of our tables has allowed us an opportunity to share food, recipes and ideas. I look forward to sharing stories and pictures from our travels among distant friends and families throughout the winter.
MB: How has the winter market grown in the years you’ve managed it? How would you like to see it grow in the future?
Becky Harris, Market Manager Emerita: Over the last six years our winter market has seen huge growth in the number of winter farmers and variety of crops available all year. I am blessed to have been involved with this market at a time when many new, first-generation farmers started coming here. In 2012, we had only one farm supplying greens all winter, and at times their availability was very limited. This winter we have not one but six, and I know more who hope to be ready next fall.
My biggest dream for the market is the new indoor market pavilion currently under construction. We’ll have room to grow, cook, teach, socialize and celebrate together. Our dedicated customer base will triple. Young farmers will thrive and be able to testify that the profession is not only rewarding—but just may be profitable!
I also want to say that our market is way more than vegetable farmers! Our winter market boasts food that was grown, picked, caught, baked, brewed, crafted, gathered and butchered all within a 30-mile radius of the market.
MB: Do you have any funny early memories about making maple syrup?
Bruce Korthase, Korthase Brothers Sugarbush: It was when our Great Uncle Hank was in his 90s, and no longer capable of making maple syrup. I was renting his house, which was in front of the sugar bush. My brother thought we should continue the tradition that spring.
One night, after bowling late I came home and parked in front of the garage. The second I opened the car door I smelled burned sugar and maple. Rushing through the garage, I glanced into my house through the glass door. My brother’s feet were visible, suspended at the end of the footrest of a recliner.
There’s an old saying among sugar makers that there are only two types: ones who admit they’ve burned a pan, and liars.
It was the first pan we ever burned, but not the last.
MB: What do you enjoy about farming this time of year?
Dave Siegrist, Siegrist Farm & Greenhouse: I’ve always enjoyed being outside. I like the smell of growing things and the crunch of the snow. I feel very fortunate to have the life that I do.
MB: When you guys were kids, what did you think you would do for a living?
Brian Bates, Anne Morningstar, Bear Creek Organic Farm: As a child, Anne thought she would be a vet and live on a horse ranch. I thought it would be great to be a professional athlete—duh! By about middle school I was pretty interested in being an entrepreneur and owning my own businesses.
MB: Your family has been farming for many generations. What are some of your memories?
Ella and Katrina McPherson, Mini Farm: Ella: My dad was making hay over by East Jordan. He got his shirt sleeve caught in a hay baler and it pulled his arm right out. It was awful. The same thing just about happened the next year at our place, but with the other arm. Those old hay balers were so dangerous.
Katrina: We always loved working with the animals the best. Riding horses, especially my grandpa’s draft horses. I remember being too small, but my brother helped me. Grandpa had 47 cattle and a dairy farm. There were chickens, geese and ducks to play with. Of course, we had to learn to stay away from the rams.
MB: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned, as a farmer and as an artisan coffee roaster?
Tom Zawistowski, Big Medicine Coffee: Awe. The magic between sun, rain, soil and seed.
Observation skills, learning to build an intuitive, communicative relationship with our plants and soil, noting the subtlest of changes in plant, soil and sky… with specialty coffee roasting, we rely on our sight, smell, sound and intuitive skill to craft our coffees. It’s alchemical metamorphosis.
MB: How did you know you wanted to become a baker?
Lou Grabowski, The Rustic Baker: I worked in retail food service for 20 years before I started baking. I left one company because of downsizing, and started a new job with another. Looking to move up as fast as I could, one day my boss joked with me about making me the assistant bakery manager. I told him I would take it seriously if he did. The next week I started training as a baker and fell in love with it. That’s when I knew I had found something that I could do the rest of my life.
MB: What brings you joy this time of year?
Laura Case, Beijo de Chocolat: Michigan is magical no matter which season you choose.
The winter is stunningly beautiful. Driving to the Saturday market in Boyne City in the morning, each curve or turn in the road brings a spectacular, postcard-like view.
Evergreens draped in snow, the hills wrapped in winter white, homes cozied up in snowdrifts—it’s all so beautiful. The picturesque and peaceful nature of a Northern Michigan winter brings me joy.
MB: And, to close, Mary, what did you eat for breakfast?
Mary Brower, Bluestem Farm: A green smoothie, pasture-raised sausage and soft-boiled eggs—100% local, available all year from our treasure of a market.
For Boyne City Farmers’ Market location and hours, see the currrent Community Farmers' Market Directory.