2021 Oryana Microloan Recipients
In partnership with Crosshatch Center and Grain Train Natural Foods Markets, Oryana offers annual zero interest loans to innovative farmers and food producers in our area. It was tough to choose among this year’s slate of excellent applicants. For this year we increased the loan by $2,000, awarding each of two finalists $6,000. Here’s to the power of a strong local food system!
Z & N Farm, Bear Lake
Zachary and Nicole Mezeske of Z&N Farm in Bear Lake are upgrading their farm well system in order to double their square footage for food production of vegetables and melons this year.
“This project means I will have more time for family,” said Zachary Mezeske, who for the past 3 seasons has had to manually move their sprinkler system multiple times per day including late into the evening. They had been running the farm from a well 1/4 mile away, losing pressure the whole while, only able to water small sections of the field at a time. The farm couple is hopeful that in addition to spending more time together that they can spend more time marketing their food to new customers this year. Z&N Farm sells their produce at the Elberta and Manistee farmers markets, at their roadside stand, and through online ordering for pickup on their farm.
The Mezeskes started their farm in 2017 on Zachary’s grandfather’s old cherry orchard, which had been out of production for nearly 30 years. They grow a variety of field and greenhouse tomatoes and vegetables without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. For more information about Z & N Farm visit zenfarmllc.com.
Michigan Worm Works, Manistee
Michigan Worm Works in Manistee is investing in a mechanical equipment upgrade to increase output of worm-produced compost as they expand from a small, home-based business to a commercial-scale operation.
Elana Warsen’s business utilizes worms to convert food scraps, farm waste, and non recyclable paper into a valuable soil amendment called vermicompost or vermicast. She has been selling out of this rich plant nutrient and needs to produce in higher quantities to meet demand from farmers, growers, and gardeners. “As a mother of three young children, I simply wouldn’t be able to find the time to do this work without the labor-saving equipment purchased with these microloan funds. The zero % interest rate and gracious repayment terms give me the confidence to invest in other major startup expenses, like rent and livestock (i.e. worms)” said Warsen.
Michigan Worm Works sells vermicast, composting worms, and supplies for vermicomposting to business owners and individuals to enhance soil quality and reduce dependence on synthetic chemical fertilizers for growing plants. Products are available online at michiganwormworks.com.