Letters

Letters 10-27-2014

Paging Doctor Dan: The doctor’s promise to repeal Obamacare reminds me of the frantic restaurant owner hurrying to install an exhaust fan after the kitchen burns down. He voted 51 times to replace the ACA law; a colossal waste of money and time. It’s here to stay and he has nothing to replace it.

Evolution Is Real Science: Breathtaking inanity. That was the term used by Judge John Jones III in his elegant evisceration of creationist arguments attempting to equate it to evolutionary theory in his landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Board of Education decision in 2005.

U.S. No Global Police: Steven Tuttle in the October 13 issue is correct: our military, under the leadership of the President (not the Congress) is charged with protecting the country, its citizens, and its borders. It is not charged with  performing military missions in other places in the world just because they have something we want (oil), or we don’t like their form of government, or we want to force them to live by the UN or our rules.

Graffiti: Art Or Vandalism?: I walk the [Grand Traverse] Commons frequently and sometimes I include the loop up to the cistern just to go and see how the art on the cistern has evolved. Granted there is the occasional gross image or word but generally there is a flurry of color.

NMEAC Snubbed: Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) is the Grand Traverse region’s oldest grassroots environmental advocacy organization. Preserving the environment through citizen action and education is our mission.

Vote, Everyone: Election Day on November 4 is fast approaching, and now is the time to make a commitment to vote. You may be getting sick of the political ads on TV, but instead, be grateful that you live in a free country with open elections. Take the time to learn about the candidates by contacting your county parties and doing research.

Do Fluoride Research: Hydrofluorosilicic acid, H2SiF6, is a byproduct from the production of fertilizer. This liquid, not environmentally safe, is scrubbed from the chimney of the fertilizer plant, put into containers, and shipped. Now it is a ‘product’ added to the public drinking water.

Meet The Homeless: As someone who volunteers for a Traverse City organization that works with homeless people, I am appalled at what is happening at the meetings regarding the homeless shelter. The people fighting this shelter need to get to know some homeless families. They have the wrong idea about who the homeless are.

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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