by Cliff and Nancy Hill
The first Saturday of June means one thing in Rockford – the annual opening of the City sponsored Rockford Farm Market. We’ve never missed an opening and this Saturday will be no exception. We, along with many others, are so “geeked” on our Farm Market that you can find us in attendance on any given Saturday during the Market’s June through October run.
The Market is all about quality, variety, abundance, and freshness along with having become a community social gathering place. Many of the Market’s vendors were present for the first Rockford Farm Market in 2001 and fell in love with the venue, the town, and the people’s of the greater Rockford community.
Market customers have come to personally know the local West Michigan farm families that bring a cornucopia of fresh Michigan produce to market each week. From the powerhouse Visser Farms, to L & L Bull Farm, to Deimer Winter Gardens, to Ter Avest Farm, to Bob Alt Farm, to Krupka’s Blueberry Plantation, to Post Farms, to Earthkeeper Farm, along with others too numerous to mention, all will be returning this season.
We frequent them all, filling our signature and colorful hand-woven wicker market basket to bursting. Freshly picked asparagus, strawberries and blueberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, peaches, cherries, salad greens galore, you get the picture, our mouths are watering already.
The Market is not only about produce. There’s something for everyone including cheeses, jerky, honey, fruit pies, floral bouquets, garden plantings, and freshly baked artisan breads.
We subscribe heartily to the “know your farmer, know your food” theory. Last Saturday, with that in mind, we set out on a field trip to the 20-acre Earthkeeper Farm located near 13-Mile Rd. and Fruit Ridge Avenue. Fearing we would be conscripted to do some weeding, we planned our surprise visit for late in the afternoon. We lucked out! Owner Rachelle Bostwick and 7-month-old son, Liam, had just finished the day’s chores and had time to show us around. Husband Andrew was in Colorado for the weekend attending the wedding of a close friend.
This is Earthkeeper Farm’s third year at the Rockford Market and Andrew and Rachelle are now proud to say that all of the farm’s produce is Certified Naturally Grown (CNG). CNG means they comply with all organic standards and adhere to the principles of sustainable agriculture. “Sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to ecosystem health,” said Rachelle.
The Bostwick’s are educators in organic and sustainable food growing. They subscribe to community supported agriculture (CSA). CSA members purchase shares of the farm’s harvest and in return receive weekly installments of a season’s worth of produce. Additionally, CSA members are required to work eight hours, hands-on, on the farm during the growing season. Currently Earthkeeper Farm has 25 CSA members with others on a waiting list to be added as the farm’s production increases in the future.
This late afternoon, along with the greenhouse and the fields with rows of sprouting crops, we viewed a newly begun beehive venture, the chicken coup, and finally the pig pen with piglets Bean, Gumbo, and Gazpacho being fattened using strictly organic methods and feed. Heir apparent, Baby Liam happily endured it all as he bounced over the fields in his high wheeled specially equipped “land-rover stroller”.
This Saturday, June 5th, we’ll be first in line at 8:00 a.m. for the 2010 opening of the Rockford Farm Market to purchase a loaf of our favorite treat, Great Harvest Bread’s extreme cinnamon swirl bread. The Market closes at 1:00 p.m. – don’t be late!
And remember, purchasing nutritious locally grown and freshly harvested Michigan produce says you don’t believe in buying farm produce that is better traveled than you are!