Did you know that Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the United States? I grew up in a very small, very rural town, which is full of cows, fields, and farms. I was also super involved in FFA, which is a leadership organization that promotes agricultural education. I especially loved learning about current issues in agriculture, such as GMOs and migrant labor policy. Because of my close ties with agriculture, it was quite a culture shock when I moved to Ann Arbor! Although I love how busy and fun this college town is, my appreciation for agriculture has only grown since I moved here. One way I was able to continue this passion was by taking Biology/Environment 101: Food, Energy, & Environmental Justice last fall. I highly recommend this course! It taught me so much more about environmental, social, and economic sustainability in agriculture. This is why I was glad to find that there are many sustainable farms near the Ann Arbor area! Many of them are interesting and unique in their own way, and I decided to document some of the ones that stuck out to me.
- Fluffy Bottom Farms
Located between Ann Arbor and Chelsea, Michigan, Fluffy Bottom is a super cool dairy farm that makes cheeses and yogurt from Jersey cows. Jerseys aren’t often used for commercial production because they are smaller and produce less milk, but they are known for their richer and creamier milk than other cows. Their packaging is super cute, and you can find their products at numerous Whole Foods and Better Health Stores in the area, as well as the Argus Farm Stop and People’s Food Co-op!
- Detroit Flight Path Farm
Detroit Flight Path Farm is one I found especially interesting because of its emphasis on agroecology, which is an approach to agricultural systems that works with the ecosystem around it, rather than against it (learn more about agroecology in this episode of our PBSL podcast!). Owned by Ph.D. wildlife biologists, the farm is dedicated to designing a profitable system that sequesters carbon, improves soil quality, and preserves breeds that aren’t commonly utilized in commercial production today. In a quote from their website, they say, “We are now working to bring the latest in agroecological research to the farm, with a focus on transforming it into a perennial system incorporating native fruit and nut trees, diversified pasture, and humanely raised pork.” They sell meat products including cuts from pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Additionally, they offer work-study programs for U-M students that provide room and board! It’s about a 30-minute drive from central campus to pick up products from their farm, which can be ordered online!
- Whitney Farmstead
The first thing I noticed about Whitney Farmstead is that they produce maple syrup… I didn’t even know maple syrup was made in this area! They practice regenerative ranching and maple sugaring in “the heart of the Huron River watershed,” also known as Northwest Ann Arbor. They also sell grass fed lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and other local farm and artisan goods. Some of their sustainable practices include direct farm-to-consumer selling, rotational grazing, perennial forages, and diversified and restorative agriculture methods. One of the farmers, Malaika Whitney, also creates art that shares stories of farming and agrarian traditions.
- Raindance Organic Farm
I was immediately captivated by the story of Raindance Organic Farm. They say it best themselves: “We can create habitat for an abundance of biodiversity– bees, monarchs, snakes, birds, toads, turtles, and earthworms. We can add important infrastructure to extend our growing season. We can offer hospitality to our community and do the important work of educating the next generation about good food, sustainable agriculture, and community building.” Raindance Farm has a beautiful story of growing their passion for agriculture through a community gardening project and eventually beginning a sustainable farming business, growing flowers, vegetables, and herbs. They also use passive solar-powered hoophouses, which is super cool! They utilize CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with a Community Farm Project that allows consumers to work on the farm in exchange for the opportunity to harvest their own produce and cut their own flowers. The farm also offers an internship program for students.
In times where industrial agriculture is such a major part of the industry, which uses unnecessarily large amounts of pesticides and fertilizer, is more water and resource-intensive, and implements unsustainable practices such as monocropping, it is refreshing to see these small, sustainable farms so close to home! If you are financially able, purchasing from these small farms not only supports local businesses, but supports a sustainable change in Michigan agriculture. Of these farms, Fluffy Bottom, Whitney Farmstead, and Raindance can be found as vendors at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. Go check them out!