Labor of Love at Light of Day
May 25, 2014Tea, even in the most suitable conditions, is one of the world’s most labor-intensive crops.
From the careful plant germination, to the hand-harvesting, drying, blending and packaging, farming tea is never simple even in its native tropical climate.
It’s even less so here in Northern Michigan, where Light of Day Tea Farm founder Angela Macke owns and runs the only tea farm in the state.
CALL TO WELLNESS
Founded 10 years ago on the Traverse City land that Macke calls home, Light of Day started small, with just a few crops: peppermint, chamomile, raspberry leaf, and spearmint. It was expanded later to a full farm on M-72 near Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Macke, a registered nurse in addition to being a tea farmer, never actually intended to own a business, but her passion for wellness led her to the tea farm, which she said "seems to have a life all its own."
"I surely have a team of "˜supernatural friends’ helping all along the way," she said. "There is no way that one little woman could do this alone, so I give all the glory to God and the angels that have guided me. It is my labor of love to the community. And if I have one desire, it is that these teas bring comfort, healing, and relief of pain."
Macke is carefully attentive to a wide range of surrounding conditions in order to make her tea-growing a success. With each pound of tea requiring around 70,000 harvested buds and leaves, she’s had to engineer an environment to make sure she’s maximizing each crop. "Michigan is not an ideal environment for growing tea," she said. "We have to create warmth, humidity, and rich, living soil yearround. Tea usually grows where pineapples grow, much nearer to the equator than we are up here in the land of the lakes and winter wonderlands."
Two important components assist Macke with her tea-growing goals, the first being her Demeter Biodynamic certification, the only one granted in Michigan that she says is the highest standard for commercially grown food in the world.
Biodynamic farming is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Similar to organic farming, which Macke’s farm also is, a strict roster of qualifications is met to acquire this certification.
"We are very proud to be stewarding the land in this holistic fashion, with a reverence for all life," she said.
EARTH TO MOON
In addition, Macke integrates another nature-based approach to her tea farming, that of astronomy.
She studies the cycles of the astronomical calendar when prepping for such activities as planting and harvesting, another stitch in the farm’s weave of sustainable agriculture.
Something as simple as the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth’s moisture can affect her crops, she said.
"By paying attention to astronomical elements, we have consistently increased our yield, quality, and health of our crops and the beings living here, including our honey bees and other beneficial insects," she said.
The teas and tisanes, or herbal teas, are proof that all of Macke’s meticulous efforts are paying off. Light of Day first gained fame due to its unique northern tea farm status, and is steadily growing its fan base.
"One of our best sellers is our Earl Grey tea, with house-made vanilla extract and oil of bergamot from bergamot flowers," she said.
Other "hit" teas include cinnamon, cherry mint, Leelanau licorice, matcha, and hummingbird nectar, a blend that results in a bright red brew.
To bring it all together in a cohesive way, Light of Day’s packaging follows a "conscientious packaging" plan that’s similar to their organic approach.
The hand-blended teas are packed in domestically manufactured silver tins with locally printed soy-based ink labels.
Whether you’d like to buy some tea, see how it all works, or simply sit right on the farm to enjoy a cup, Light of Day welcomes you.
"We are planning to be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11am-5pm, and we’ll be here as long as we continue to have such loyal and lovely customers to support us," Macke said.
Light of Day Tea Farm is located at 3502 E. Traverse Hwy., Traverse City (eight miles west of TC on M-72). Visit them online at lightofdayorganics.com. They were also recently featured on PBS-TV’s "Destination Michigan" series, episode #502.