Friday, October 10, 2014
Ann Arbor mayoral candidates Bryan Kelly, left, and Christopher Taylor play a game of chess following a mayoral candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Wednesday night inside CTN studios. They had to clear out before they could finish, so they called it a draw. The two candidates will face off again in the Nov. 4 election.
Inside a series of hoop houses on a 64-acre property just north of Ann Arbor, the next generation of farmers is busy sowing the seeds of tomorrow. Nate and Jill Lada, both University of Michigan graduates in their 20s, have been learning the tricks of the trade as new farmers, growing crops like kale, tomatoes, beets, turnips, spinach, squash, carrots, lettuce, garlic, onions, radishes, wheat berries and black beans. They're also raising chickens and pigs. Come harvest time, the fresh produce, chicken and pork from Green Things Farm at the corner of Nixon and Warren roads in Ann Arbor Township doesn't travel far. Fueling the local food movement, some of it goes to downtown Ann Arbor restaurants, including Jolly Pumpkin, Grange, Zingerman's Deli and Tios. Some of it also is sold at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, and Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak. Green Things Farm also hosts farm dinners and has a community-supported agriculture program that allows people to buy shares in the farm in return for a share of the harvest. With the hoop houses, they can grow food through the winter."It's really exciting for us," Nate Lada said. The husband-and-wife duo credits the Ann Arbor greenbelt program for making it affordable for them to purchase the farm two years ago. Read story.
John and Jean Cares, who own a large farm on Farrell Road in Webster Township, made the decision to sell their development rights for $2.4 million in 2006. They had made their living off pigs for years, but a downturn in the market put the farm at risk, they said, and the greenbelt helped them survive and reinvest. "Our farm was at risk," John Cares said. "We had a tremendous amount of debt. We potentially could have not made it." "It's been important for our family," added Jean Cares, who now serves on the city's Greenbelt Advisory Commission. No longer raising pigs, the Cares are growing corn, soybeans and wheat on the farm, which spans roughly 200 acres. "Before the greenbelt, it was pretty rundown," John Cares admitted of his farm, which has seen some improvements, including a newly restored barn. Read story.
Scio Woods Preserve, a natural area now owned by Washtenaw County that both the city of Ann Arbor and Scio Township helped the county preserve, is a hidden gem. "There are absolutely spectacular wildflower blooms in the spring. I mean, just literal carpets of wildflowers, so it's outstanding for that. But it's also a place that is outstanding for cross-country skiing," said Barry Lonik, land preservation consultant for Scio Township. "This is one of the best examples of how we've all worked together."
Mike Vestergaard was able to purchase the old Frederick family farm on Wagner Road in Lodi Township, just outside Ann Arbor, in 2009 after the previous owners sold the development rights on 100-plus acres for more than $770,000. "There was no way that I could make a budget work without having those development rights sold off," Vestergaard said. The farm had been in the Frederick family for many years but it had been passed down to a generation that was not interested in farming it. After restoring old barns and making other improvements, Vestergaard and his family are planning to open a farm store by next summer. He plans to sell his own pasture-raised meat products, plus dairy products from another farm. He already has belted galloway cattle roaming a section of the property and plans to eventually have 112 acres laid out in pastures for rotational grazing. "We farm with organic principles," he said. "Everything is grass-based from the hogs to cows, and also we're going to be moving into chickens." Read story.