I pulled into Groundswell Community Farm in a hurry, anxious to catch the morning light on the fog. July in southwest Michigan is typically pleasantly hot and this day would be no exception. Nestled in low ground near Zeeland, Groundswell grows numerous varieties of almost any vegetable you could name. During my visit kale, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beets, parsnips, fennel, and kohlrabi were among the harvest.
Katie and Tom, the wife-husband team who own Groundswell, are joined by seven full time farm workers. Influenced by parents who proclaimed them to be poison to their backyard garden, Katie told me that pesticides are never an option for their farm. Instead, they are thoughtful about how they plant and rotate crops. They use a variety of homebuilt tools and traditional tractors, often inheriting machines from retiring neighbors, and are fortunate to be situated in an area with very fertile soil. Called muck, this deep black soil is broken down organic matter found in a drained swampland. The rich plant matter gives them a healthy topsoil ranging from 2 to 28 feet deep, which a few of the farmers stressed was a unique element to their farm.
After touring the farm, I sat with Katie in the shade of the garlic tent, helping to bundle some of the 500 pounds of garlic that will be sold to the Seed Savers Exchange. The biggest challenge that Groundswell faces is the saturated market of small farms producing food for West Michigan. It's not uncommon to have extra CSAs at beginning of a season, which is forcing Katie and Tom to get involved in a side of business that hasn't been necessary yet- marketing. There seems to be ample interest and places to sell produce (Groundswell grows for 160 CSA members, 2 farmers’ markets and 4 health food stores) but "it's connecting to them and reaching a new group of folks."