By David Whitney, Produce Buyer, Co-op Owner
Last month we had an opportunity to visit a new produce provider for GreenTree: Good News Farm. Located in the community of Cedar Lake, MI, just west of Edmore, Good News Farm is a unique, agricultural gem. Operated in conjunction with the Great Lakes Adventist Academy, Good News Farm offers a large variety of “veganically grown” vegetables and fruits.
Just a half-hour drive from GreenTree, Good News Farm’s operation is maintained by a small, full-time staff with help from the students at the Adventist Academy across the road. Academy students have a chance to offset some of their tuition costs by helping on the certified organic farm. I was met by Janna Britton, the office manager. Janna’s husband Andy, the farm manager, was out delivering produce the day of my visit. I was introduced to Grower Specialist Julien Nash and off we went to check out the farm.
Good News Farm has approximately a half-acre’s worth of high tunnels with a variety of crops in various stages of development, I saw many varieties of kale, beets, lettuces, and greens in different stages of growth, from seedlings just emerging from multi-cell trays to mature veggies ready to harvest. The farm’s primary crops, tomatoes, lettuce, and micro greens, are available to harvest over a several month span, with some items being available all year long. Julien showed me an experimental corn plot that was actually being grown in a high tunnel. I’m pretty curious to see how that will turn out; greenhouse corn – modern times. Speaking of modern times, eventually our tour took us to a one acre, computer controlled greenhouse, the farm’s “tomato on vine” and micro green growing areas. Watering and ventilation are all controlled automatically using a variety of sensors that communicate with a CPU. When the soil is too dry, valves automatically open and the plants receive their watering solution. When the space is too warm, actuators open vents or raise side panels to moderate temperatures.
All of the crops grown at Good News Farm are “veganically grown” meaning that no animal based amendments are used: no manures, no bone meal, no blood meal, no fish emulsion, etc. The primary fertilizer is an organic, pelletized alfalfa which for some plantings is applied in amounts up to 2 or 3 pounds per square foot. It breaks down rapidly via earthworm and “roly-poly” bug activity producing a rich black compost. The plants are thriving.
When I was visiting tomatoes were being trellised and micro greens were being harvested. All greens and root vegetables are triple-washed and carefully packed before shipping. We’ve been very pleased with the quality and consistency of the items that we get from Good News Farm, and their system of greenhouses allows us to provide local, organic items 365 days a year. Great farm, great partner.