By CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY —
The Benzie Small Farm Tour will provide a real-world look at the practices, economics, marketing and science of local, sustainable farming.
Saturday's event is geared to everyone from veteran farmers to aspiring growers, homesteaders and interested consumers.
The event is a collaboration among Grow Benzie, the Michigan Land Use Institute, the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Benzie County Conservation District.
"It's an amazing way for people to mix ideas, find new processes, learn from somebody who's maybe doing something similar but maybe doing it differently," said Jim Sluyter, the Get Farming coordinator for the Michigan Land Use Institute.
"When I was a farmer 20 years ago, farm tours were one of the best ways to learn new things to do," he added.
The Michigan Land Use Institute is offering another farm tour in Leelanau County on Oct. 10. See the Events section of their website, www.mlui.org, for more information.
This Saturday, Paul and Sharron May will welcome attendees to their Frankfort farm where they raise beef and lamb using management-intensive grazing. The May Farm also offers poultry and eggs, and sells products in shares to customers.
Feeding his animals on grass, not corn or grain, and moving them around on his land create a regenerative form of agriculture that nurtures topsoil.
"I'm out there not only conserving soil but rebuilding it," said Paul May.
May hopes tour members learn something positive about food production from their visit.
"I would like for people to try and participate in rebuilding, reclaiming and revitalizing community food systems," he said.
The other two farms scheduled on the tour include the Ant and Grasshopper Farm in Frankfort, owned by Greg Kindig. He relaunched the dormant farm in 2007 and grows a wide variety of produce, including open-pollinated heirloom varieties.
North Star Organics, owned by Alan and Cheryl Kobernik, rounds out the program. The Koberniks grow certified organic cherries for sale directly to consumers at farmers markets and from the farm. The Frankfort farm also offers their fruit in local restaurants and at grocery and natural food stores.
Grow Benzie, a community-based farmstead situated between Frankfort and Benzonia, began four years ago. Promoting self-reliance and independence, the nonprofit's mission focuses on boosting county residents' lives. Programs range from agriculture education and nutrition to job training and life skills.
"We do have a lot of different programs we offer," said Deb Query of Grow Benzie.
"Our kitchen will be done in a couple of weeks," she added about the organization's long-awaited certified kitchen. "Then vendors can come here and make products from their produce."