Oryana Natural Foods Market
Oryana Natural Foods Market
260 East Tenth Street | Traverse City, MI 49684 | (231) 947-0191

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Monday - Saturday 7:30am-9:00pm | Sunday 9:00am-7:00pm
 

Sweeter Song Farm

Sweeter Song Farm

Location: Cedar
Items supplied to Oryana: lettuce, peppers, leeks, cabbage, winter squash, onions, potatoes, eggplant, pears, rhubarb, asparagus
Farming practices: certified organic
Website: Sweeter Song Farm

My husband, Jim Schwantes, and I, Judy Reinhardt, own and operate Sweeter Song Farm, a certified organic vegetable and fruit farm located about 5 miles north of Cedar in Leelanau County. Our main enterprise prior to this year was our CSA, but starting this 2015 season we are no longer in the CSA business. We will be concentrating on wholesale sales to Oryana and to local restaurants as well as offering bi-weekly sales to interested community members.

Jim and I moved to our 80 acre farm 24 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri. The farm had been abandoned for about 6 years, had no running water (no indoor bathroom) and one circuit of electricity. Needless to say, we had our work cut out for us. During the first years we worked hard to make the house warm, dry, and safe, doing most of the work ourselves: drywall, electricity, wood floors, new windows, and on and on. Jim was an occupational therapist in Missouri and easily found full-time employment here.  I had 25 years of school counseling experience and found a dream job as the K-12 counselor at Leland Public School.

We spent the first 8 years on the farm working our jobs and renovating the house. Jim ended his occupational therapy career and became a full time farmer 11 years ago and I retired and joined him 9 years ago.
We began farming our land about 18 years ago.  We started small and sold our produce through the Empire farmer’s market for several years. After a few years, we started our CSA with ten shares and slowly increased that number to 115 shares.  Each year, we grew more confident and grew more food.  We built a greenhouse and later two hoop houses.  Three years ago we added a 110 foot by 30 foot high tunnel.

Our farming experience was very limited at the start (actually none) and we learned everything through our efforts and experiences, through helpful mentoring from friends, and from reading many books and attending local/statewide workshops. The underlying goal of our organic farm has always been to “grow our soil” which in turn grows our good food. We currently have about 10 acres under cultivation, half of which is fallow each year.  Last year our harvest weight total was about 45,000 pounds.

Organic certification was always a goal for us and we received our certification nine years ago through our certifying agency, Midwest Organic Services Organization. The process of certification requires thoughtful planning and implementation, rigorous record keeping, submission and review of those records, and a yearly in-depth inspection of the farm. Because we have always kept good records and appreciate the oversight and dialogue, we have found this process to be positive and relatively easy.  It encourages us to meet the highest standards, and offers insurance to purchasers that we have met these high standards.  There is no “what-does-that-label-mean” guess work in the certified organic designation.

We have two full-time summer employees and numerous part-time workers.  We also have about 50 pastured chickens who provide big, brown eggs for on-farm purchase. The chickens enjoy the bugs and greens as we move their portable hen house around the fallow fields.

We love our farm and the many wonderful people we have met through our efforts. Our bi-weekly pickups here at the farm offer community members the opportunity to purchase great food, make  the farm their own, visit with the chickens, hike the easy trails, and visit with one another and with us.  It is a good life.  
We also love our association with Oryana. Through the years, we have appreciated their support of our efforts and their support of other local organic farms. We are very fortunate to have Oryana in our area, helping to sustain our rural environment while providing healthful food and resources to our beautiful community.

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