November 30, 2023

You Sold How Many Bushels of Apples?!

Farmers share their harvest stats, popular crops, and hidden gem offerings
By Al Parker | Sept. 30, 2023

For almost four decades, the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market has been a key sales venue for area farmers, a place where residents and visitors can buy quality farm-grown goods, and a welcoming gathering place in the heart of downtown Traverse City.

Named after one of the area’s leading philanthropists, the market started with less than 10 vendors and now serves more than 115 local farmers through the season. It’s operated by the Downtown Development Authority and managed by SEEDS. The market runs every Wednesday and Saturday through October.

Though the season is winding down, the market remains busy until the first flurries fly. Northern Express recently visited with a variety of local farmers who set up at the market to share their harvests with the community. Here’s what they had to say about their fall hauls.

All About Apples: Bakker’s Acres

Bakker’s Acres is a 40-acre, family-run fruit farm at 2677 Setterbo Road, just north of Suttons Bay. They are best known for their apples and provide fresh, local fruit at many farmers markets across the region.

Which crop do you grow the most?
Bakkers Acres grows mainly SweeTango and Honeycrisp apples, but also Gala and Fuji and 20-plus other varieties. In addition, we have a few trees of apricots, plums, pears, peaches, and nectarines. We produce over 10,000 bushels each of SweeTangos and Honeycrisp, about 5,000 bushels of Gala, and 3,000 bushels of Fuji.

When is your busiest harvest time and what’s it like?
Busiest time is right now; harvest is most of September and October. [We’re] busy before daylight until after dark, [and] catch-up time is rainy days. Market day and the day before are hectic.

What’s the fastest you’ve sold out—either one product or the whole market?
We very seldom sell out as we’ve adapted to eliminating the volume needed at each market and have on farm storage for the needs at the next market.

What’s an under-the-radar crop people should try?
Something I would like people to try that is unique is the Shiro yellow plum. It is like a round yellow sugar bomb—as juicy as you will find. 

The Spice of Life: Great Lakes Garlic Farm

You’ll find this fragrant farm at 7269 County Road 633 in Buckley. Kevin and Tiffany Gregory, along with sons Micah and Joel, grow garlic on about three acres of their 40-acre farm. Their fresh garlic and garlic powder are a hit at local markets.

Which crop do you grow the most?
We love garlic. When we started six years ago, we thought we could start small and it was relatively inexpensive, and it’s been great. We grow four types of garlic: Chesnok Red, Svea, Northern Jewel, and Music, both culinary and seed size. And my 11-year-old son grows little pumpkins. Kids at the market love the little pumpkins.

When is your busiest harvest time and what’s it like?
Harvest time is June and July, that’s when we start selling.

What’s the fastest you’ve sold out—either one product or the whole market?
Only once have we sold out of our garlic and garlic products.

What’s an under-the-radar crop people should try?
Wheat berries. They are heritage certified organic and can be ground into flour, which we sell, or you can boil them and eat them. They have a nice flavor.

Fruit Forward: Interwater Farms

Interwater Farms, at 10877 U.S. 31 S in Williamsburg, continues a family farming legacy that goes back five generations over 100 years. Joann Brown and the family grow cherries, apples, peaches, and more.

Which crop do you grow the most?
Apples—we typically bring about 15 bushels to the market. It’s been a good summer for us. [Our most popular offerings] are SweeTango apples, along with peaches.

When is your busiest harvest time and what’s it like?
Right now. During cherry season, we’re up at 5am and out the door. Now, we’re waiting for the sun to rise so we can start. Typically it’s 7am until 7pm.

What’s the fastest you’ve sold out—either one product or the whole market?
Peaches! We brought seven lugs, but underestimated how popular they were.

What’s an under-the-radar crop people should try?
I would say the SweeTango apple. It’s the trademark club apple that everyone can’t grow. It's a great apple. We mainly only sell that at the market just to get the apple out there. We also have a self-serve stand at the farm so people can get it fresh.

What’s your favorite crop to grow?
I love them all—it depends on what is ripe. When cherries start, I can’t get enough of them and wouldn’t think of eating anything else. But when cherries end, it’s peaches, and the same for apples. 

The Birds and the Beasts: Morganic Farm

This farm, nestled between Fife Lake and Kingsley on M-113, is owned and operated by Stuart Morgan Kunkle. He offers grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chickens, turkeys, and ducks, along with free-range chicken and duck eggs.

What’s your most popular offering at the market?
Eggs, but everything sells pretty well. We have 20 pigs, 50 sheep, 23 goats, 25 turkeys, 180 hens, and 150 broiler chickens. Along with our store at the farm, the market is our number one outlet. We’ve been here seven or eight years now.

When is your busiest harvest time and what’s it like?
Lamb, goat, and pork are harvested year-round. Chickens, ducks, and turkeys in late summer. It’s crazy now because the animals mature and there’s pretty decent demand for all.

What’s the fastest you’ve sold out—either one product or the whole market?
One time I brought 28 dozen eggs and they sold out. Weather plays a role in it too; when the weather’s bad, sales are slower.

What’s an under-the-radar product people should try?
Goat—it’s awesome. The rest of the world eats goat, but we in the U.S. don’t. It's an economical livestock. Flavorwise it’s somewhere between lamb and deer, not a super strong flavor. If you like lamb, you’ll love goat.

What’s your favorite livestock to raise?
For social reasons, I love the goats. For a product, I like sheep. And I’m amazed by turkeys, how well they forage. We’re already taking deposits on our turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Tomato Time: TLC Farms

TLC Farms is owned and operated by husband and wife duo Joe Vanderbosch and Anne Cunningham. It's a hydroponic farm at 4030 Setterbo Road in Suttons Bay that’s home to popular heirloom and cherry tomatoes.

Which crop do you grow the most?
Tomatoes and lettuce. We harvest twice a week: 2,500 to 2,600 pounds a week.

When is your busiest harvest time and what’s it like?
We’re busiest in July and August. That’s when the demand is up.

What’s the fastest you’ve sold out—either one product or the whole market?
Oh, cherry tomatoes. One time we brought about 50 pounds and they were gone by 9am on a Saturday!

What’s an under-the-radar crop people should try?
People should try our beefsteak tomatoes; they’re sometimes overlooked. And head lettuce is nice, with different textures and colors. Our bibb lettuce is most popular, but we also grow Romaine, leaf lettuce, and arugula.

What’s your favorite crop to grow?
Jimmy Nardello peppers from Italy. It’s a sweet pepper with a very unique flavor.


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