Letters

Letters 02-08-2016

Less Ageism, Please The January 4 issue of this publication proved to me that there are some sensible voices of reason in our community regarding all things “inter-generational.” I offer a word of thanks to Elizabeth Myers. I too have worked hard for what I’ve earned throughout my years in the various positions I’ve held. While I too cannot speak for each millennial, brash generalizations about a lack of work ethic don’t sit well with me...Joe Connolly, Traverse City

Now That’s an Escalation I just read the letter from Greg and his defense of the AR15. The letter started with great information but then out of nowhere his opinion went off the rails. “The government wants total gun control and then confiscation; then the elimination of all Constitutional rights.” Wait... what?! To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly!”

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Children Healthy foods and exercise are important for children of all ages. It is important for children because it empowers them to do their best at school and be able to do their homework and study...

Mascots and Harsh Native American Truths The letter from the Choctaw lady deserves an answer. I have had a gutful of the whining about the fate of the American Indian. The American Indians were the losers in an imperial expansion; as such, they have, overall, fared much better than a lot of such losers throughout history. Everything the lady complains about in the way of what was done by the nasty, evil Whites was being done by Indians to other Indians long before Europeans arrived...

Snyder Must Go I believe it’s time. It’s time for Governor Snyder to go. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division are now investigating the Flint water crisis that poisoned thousands of people. Governor Snyder signed the legislation that established the Emergency Manager law. Since its inception it has proven to be a dismal failure...

Erosion of Public Trust Let’s look at how we’ve been experiencing global warming. Between 1979 and 2013, increases in temperature and wind speeds along with more rain-free days have combined to stretch fire seasons worldwide by 20 percent. In the U.S., the fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s...

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.

THE LAND CALLS

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.

PERFECTING THE PROCESS

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.

LIFE ON THE FARM

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.

CHALLENGING CROPS

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.

FARMING DESTINY

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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