November 28, 2022

Fall on the Farm: What local farmers are harvesting and growing this season

By Rachel Pasche | Oct. 1, 2022

Summer may be the peak tourism season, but for farmers, autumn brings long days toiling in the soil harvesting, preparing, packing, and even planting crops. Two local farms—9 Bean Rows and Lakeview Hill—provided us with some insight into what the autumnal harvest looks like, what their days consist of, and which produce to seek out at farmers markets this October.

9 Bean Rows
Operated by Nic and Jen Welty, 9 Bean Rows sits off of Horn Road in Lake Leelanau. The farm/store/deli/bakery storefront is always a bustling scene where you can pick up a fresh loaf of bread, a bag of microgreens, a fresh pizza or sandwich, or a bag of farm-grown produce. Their farm is chemical- and pesticide-free, and they grow a huge variety of crops year-round thanks to their farm, hoop houses, and greenhouses.

What’s Happening: Nic laughs when we ask him what time the day starts. “It depends on who you ask,” he says. “Some staff start their day between midnight and 2am, but the farm staff usually arrives around 5am.”

Upon arrival, farmers begin harvesting, aiming to have the day’s produce picked before the sun comes up. After that, they prepare and pack the veggies for their next stage, which could be headed to a farmers market, their CSA, the storefront, or local restaurants. Once fall fully descends, harvest of the autumn veggies (such as squash and pumpkins) can take place in the evenings.

Those pumpkins are somewhat legendary. “Growing giant pumpkins is my hobby,” Nic says. “I’m hoping to enter a competition this year with one of them.” He also likes to dabble in unique-to-NoMi crops, testing out things like artichokes, okra, and even wheat to see what takes.

What’s Ready: Currently, 9 Bean Rows is harvesting salad mix, lettuce greens, microgreens, spinach, kale, chard, and even sweet corn. Once they get a bit of frost, root vegetables such as rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, beets, radishes, and the “best-looking crop of brussels sprouts [we’ve] ever grown” will be ready for harvesting.

“Right now is peak planting time for the winter greens,” Nic tells Northern Express. “We have to prepare the hoop houses and clear out the old crops, get the soil ready with compost, and plant the new ones. It’s tough because you have to get the timing for planting just right. If you plant something even a few days late, your harvest can be delayed by a month.”

Losing staff members is an additional hurdle the farmers have to face during the fall rush, with many workers returning to school once September arrives.

What’s New: 9 Bean Rows has built a giant Llopis masonry oven to perfect their bread-baking process. (Though we think it was already pretty perfect.) This giant brick oven features a rotating hearth, and Nic expects it to be a game-changer for their bakery.

In addition to the new oven, 9 Bean Rows is launching fermented crops in 2023, with offerings such as tangy kimchi, salty and sour sauerkraut, and crunchy pickles. They also hope to test out more kitchen items with their produce, such as salsas and Bloody Mary mixes.

Find them at 9beanrows.com.

Lakeview Hill Farm
Lakeview Hill Farm is an organic farm located between South Lake Leelanau and West Grand Traverse Bay, off Lakeview Hills Road. Co-owners Bailey Samp and John Dindia pride themselves on providing people with organic produce and using sustainable energy sources. The farm itself is 100 percent solar powered, and the hoop houses and greenhouses use a high-efficiency gasification wood boiler system with wood collected from the farm.

What’s Happening: The farm team starts their day around 7am and gets straight to work harvesting veggies, packing them up, and preparing for their winter crops. The day usually ends around 3 or 4pm for the staff and closer to 5 or 6pm for John and Bailey.

“This time of year can be especially hectic,” John says, “because we’re harvesting our late summer and fall crops while simultaneously preparing and planting our winter crops.”

Some of these winter crops—like baby leaf greens, bunching greens, and microgreens—are available nearly all year round on restaurant menus and in stores. (If you’ve never had the chance to try a salad made with fresh, locally grown greens, we strongly recommend it! The taste and crisp texture of these fresh greens is enough to put any salad in the spotlight.)

What’s Ready: When asked what was currently being harvested, John gave us an extensive list: Vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, celery, sweet peppers, and shishito peppers are all ripe and ready to be sold and enjoyed. “A huge variety of greens grown in our greenhouses are also being harvested, such as arugula, baby spinach, collard greens, baby kale, rainbow chard, pea shoots, and multiple different types of microgreens,” John adds.

The produce, according to John, goes to a plethora of different places. “We have a farm store that’s open Monday through Saturday, where we sell some of our produce. We also sell to a few local restaurants, have booths at farmers markets, and are an owner of the MI Farm Co-Op, which is a multi-farm CSA that aims to provide people with fresh food from a variety of local farms,” he tells us.

What’s New: After a successful growing season, John and Bailey are setting their sights on their goals for 2023. They plan on introducing a transplant sale to the public, where people can purchase vegetable, fruit, herb, and natural grass plants that are grown by professional farmers and at the right stage of growth to be transplanted.

“This allows people to bring the farm into their own garden and ensure they’re getting a plant that’s been grown properly and is certified organic,” John says, explaining that most other garden stores aren’t offering certified organic plants, and some of their stock isn’t always at the right stage to be transplanted.

In addition to the plants, they’ll offer gardening supplies such as compost and other tools to help nurture the plants’ growth.

Learn more at lakeviewhillfarm.com.

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