Growing Home

I laughed when my parents announced they were buying a retirement farm! In their mid 60’s, instead of putting their feet up they decided to roll their sleeves up. The farmhouse needed extensive renovations so did the 10 acres. But, in pursuit of a dream they never wavered. Propelled by faith, undeterred by obstacles like money, equipment or time, The Holmestead Farm opened its barn doors in 2008.

The Holmestead Farm has become an extension of their hearts. With the gift of hospitality and a talent for growing things the project has grown into a thriving CSA Farm (community supported agriculture). Over 30 families show up weekly to collect a basket of farm fresh goodness that includes organic eggs, greens, veggies, fruit, fresh-cut flowers and more. The first line in the farm’s CSA membership brochure reads: Every sunrise is a welcome challenge. I’ve never seen my parents work this hard but they are clearly gratified by the conversations and heartfelt thank you’s from each family.

I joke about going home to Traverse City for a relaxing weekend. On the farm, I will be undoubtedly put to work. It’s a welcome change though trading tapping keys for dirt under my fingernails. It’s simple, sweaty, pure and I get to see my folks. A weekend at the farm means planting 200 tomatoes, dirtying my jeans and nursing a sore back. And, it also means grilling burgers then relaxing over a meal (with fresh veggies of course) with family who I don’t get to see often enough. My dinner views are tomatoes growing over mom and dad’s shoulder in perfect-staked rows. I stare out at the rows, reflecting. An appreciation grows inside of me for the values I’ve learned and a homegrown work ethic, with roots in farming.

At my last visit, I helped work CSA pick-up day, the Thursday before the fourth of July. My dad keeps a handwritten list of the names with special marks for half or full-shares. I observed as the first people show up with baskets in hand with clear excitement for what’s newly harvested. Each item has been carefully bagged or bunched then he fills the baskets calling out names like, kale, Salanova, radishes, green-onions, basil, turnip greens, arugula and carrots. Dad finishes with a dozen eggs, explaining that the new hens have been slow on the uptake. Most people lingered, they did not rush in/out like it was a stop at the store. They petted the barn cats (Licorice and Sunny), walked to the chicken coop with grass for the hens or let the kids play in the sandbox near the greenhouse.

I figured I could follow his lead as he headed in to town to run an errand. Scanning the list, I counted 12 more pick-ups. My supplies of greens and eggs were looking low so I checked my watch often, hoping dad would return to help me care for his flock. People came in waves. They looked surprised but happy to see me. “Are you Marshall today?” they inquired approaching with an empty basket. I explained, “I’m Marshall’s oldest daughter, up for a visit helping out on the farm.” Everyone shared how pleasant it is to stop at the farm not just for vegetables, but to chat about what’s growing next. Honestly, I have never seen people so excited about arugula or turnip greens! I kept filling baskets, smiling back as each person affirmed how wonderful my parents are and how much they love their homegrown goodies and recipes. I discovered my parents are local celebrities, affectionately talked about at dinner tables throughout Grand Traverse County.

No one was even remotely upset, when I explained the farm was out of eggs and my dad had yet to return from his errand. They even offered to come back the next day. Three people remained on the list. When I realized we were out of kale and salanova, I asked if they would mind waiting and literally ran off to the south garden to trim a few more bunches. Thankfully, dad arrived with extra eggs purchased from a nearby Amish farmer. The crisis was averted and the last baskets were filled.

Later, we laughed over dinner at my trial by fire in the farming business. Grinning, my dad patted my shoulder, “I knew you could handle it.” I returned his grin and confirmed my thoughts. It was the right move to come home to work on the farm. My vacation day did not mean putting my feet up, rather rolling up my sleeves too.

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