Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · The World According to Werp
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The World According to Werp

Kristi Kates - June 9th, 2014  

A little plot of land in Buckley has got sophisticated diners in Chicago and Detroit tucking in to something special in July … and January too.

With its high-end heated greenhouses, Werp Farms ships out hand harvested micro-greens and custom organic produce from their heated greenhouses year-round.

The high demand keeps Tina and Mike Werp busy, but it’s worth it to the Werps, who believe in making the most of the land they live and work on.


Tina Werp runs the farm alongside her husband, Mike Werp. His great-grandfather founded Werp Farm after bringing the family to Chicago from Central Europe in the early 1900s.

“As the family grew, they heard reports of the rich farmland up here, and believed it was a better place to raise the boys than the city,” Tina Werp said.

Mike Werp’s grandfather and two of his brothers would stay on the farm, while a third brother left to become a postmaster. His mother was raised on the farm, as well.

When Werp himself grew up, he departed for other ventures, studying physics, joining the Army, and later becoming a Dow Corning Corporation engineer.

By the mid-70s, the 80-acre farm was calling him back.

Tina Werp, meanwhile, was working in high-rise offices and taking correspondence courses from Pennsylvania State University. But farming spoke to her too, so she joined her husband in the business.


Though Mike Werp’s plan was to grow field corn, a call from an Alden fine dining restaurant in the mid-80s set the family on a new trajectory, Tina Werp said.

“Mike knew the chef at Spencer Creek Landing, and over time, one chef referred us to another,” she said. “We learned from all of them as we went along.”

By the late ‘90s, the Werps saw value in growing produce during winter. They constructed their first greenhouse, and over time built seven more.

Their hoop-style structures use dual layers of heavy-duty specialized greenhouse plastics that resist degradation by sunlight. They’re heated by wood-fired hot water boilers that use the dead wood from around the couple’s land.

While other farms use greenhouses in the off-season, most aren’t heated. The Werps’s approach yields more product, Tina Werp said.


Farming life – never easy – has its own complexities in the winter, Tina Werp said.

“When it’s very cold, we fill [the furnaces] four times a day,” she said. “It’s quite brisk going out at midnight, and again at 6am, or in rough weather. But on clear, cold nights, it’s actually quite beautiful.”

The first greenhouse they built used a peat substrate and a fertilizer solution in a modified hydroponic system. Later, the Werps moved to using garden-type beds and compost inside the greenhouses.

Organic had long been their goal. “Both Mike and I knew of the health and environmental problems that could be caused by chemicals,” she said. “We both grew up watching the news about the long-term effects of DDT, thalidomide, PBB, and lead.”

Being an organic grower turned out to be less complex than the couple imagined, she said.

“Since we were selling directly to the end user, the produce did not need to withstand shipping injury, and then be picked over by shoppers looking for perfection,” she said.


The Werps grow various types of lettuces, greens, chicories, and Asian greens, plus root crops like carrots, turnips, and radishes. A few of their other specialties include most of the common culinary herbs as well as a few more obscure ones like Sweet Cicely and Burnett.

The differences between growing outdoors and indoors are very specific, Tina Werp said.

“Growing outdoors provides a light show of sunrise, sunset, clouds, vultures, and hawks,” she said. “There is also more room for big crops like squash and tomatoes. But it’s also more difficult for us because we have to plant double to account for the share that the deer take, as we’re surrounded by beautiful woodlands.”

Growing in the greenhouses, they can obviously avoid the deer, as well as insects. And they don’t have to harvest in rain or mud.

But there are still problems to be solved, she said.

“The management of humidity, air circulation, and temperature make fungi and bacteria more of a challenge when growing indoors,” she said.


Either way, restaurants in Northern Michigan, Detroit, Ann Arbor, New Buffalo, and even as far as Chicago now depend on the Werps to deliver produce to them every single week, all year long.

It’s a labor-intensive process – using scissors to clip the produce – that keeps the couple busy.

“We hand-harvest to order, cool and package the produce,” Tina Werp said. “Someone leaves here three times a week to do deliveries; we spend two days alone on the Chicago trip.”

Despite the work, it’s rewarding to the Werps, whose reputation for standout organic produce is becoming a secret staple for several restaurants.

A surprise side benefit for Tina Werp?

All the weeding she gets to do.

“You are at eye level with the plant and see the busy life that is going on in that space between the bottom leaves and the soil,” she said. “[It’s] my favorite job.”

Werp Farms is located at 7625 Davis Rd. in Buckley. Contact Mike and Tina Werp at (231) 263-7239, or email werpfarms@gmail.com.

Werp Tips for the Good Life

Buy less, eat more. Think about how much you put in the disposal.

This also applies to buying organic food. If it costs more, just make sure you’re throwing less away and it’ll even out.

If you’re buying frozen, buy organic frozen.

Don’t worry about slight flaws in organic produce, or if the oranges aren’t really orange. Some non-organic produce is sprayed to enhance the color.

Follow the French provincial method of cooking, which makes use of a little of this and a little of that. Stale bread equals French toast. A couple of potatoes and a couple of leeks: Vichyssoise soup.

Make a point to stop at the organic section of the grocery and buy something.

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