Final Report for FNC98-204
Bosserd Family Farms is a third generation farm. We currently farm 1500 acres of crops. 42 acres is now designated to vegetable production to sell directly to the consumer. We currently no till 90% of the field crops and use hog and cattle manure for fertilizer. We rotate crops and use IPM scouting to control the amount of pesticides used on the farm. We also fatten Holstein cattle and finish hogs for a neighbor. Compost (from our manure and vegetable waste) is used for vegetable production as well as cover crops. We also take soil samples each fall to see where our nutrients stand for the spring season.
We run a roadside business seven days a week selling fresh vegetables grown on the farm. Sweet corn, cukes, zucchini, melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, beans and potatoes are some of the crops we grow. We are establishing selling all the fall decorations as well as having good, educational tours weekends and during the week. We hosted over 1000 school kids this year on the farm giving them a fun but educational experience.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
To capitalize on our location and family abilities by transiting from a traditional livestock and crop farm to an on farm roadside produce market, to diversify, increase income, and maintain our family farm.
When we started selling sweet corn 5 years ago we never imagined that we have such a growing business. Location is key to growing fast, but I do believe you could start a farm market on a farm if you were off the main road. It would take longer to grow but patience and advertising would get them there. We are diversifying the farm and increasing income. Our sales again doubled this year and we anticipate next year with a greenhouse and strawberries that we will again double our sales. It has not allowed my husband to cut back on crops or cattle because I have been growing the business and putting most of the profits of this venture back in every year. Hopefully in the next two years we can scale back on the field crops and concentrate on selling to the public directly. We are working on selling our own meat with the vegetables because of the customer demand.
To be competitive with local grocery stores by extending our season.
We know that if we have tomatoes the customers will come. We are up to ½ acre of tomatoes and have picked and u pick available. Our problem is having tomatoes through November while we are still selling squash and root crops. We have done a lot of research and asked a lot of questions but have gotten many varied answers for growing tomatoes in a hoop house of greenhouse. We have been successful growing tomatoes under wire hoops early so we can have the first fresh tomatoes off the vine but we are losing them early to frosts in September. Because we stalled putting up the greenhouse until November, tomato trials will be for the year 2000. We are going to try three things in our greenhouse. First, grow tomatoes using soil from farm in buckets. Second, directly into the soil using bags, and also using hydroponic method. This will allow us to compare quality and taste. We also will see how long we can extend our season. The greenhouse costs in the report (in kind contribution) are more due to greenhouse costing more than we anticipated and were told.
To serve as a means to reconnect children and adults to their food supply and importance of a rural, agronomically based community by developing a school age curriculum.
This year was an exciting fall. By distributing brochures to the local schools and preschools, we hosted over 1000 children on our farm (not including weekends and afternoon children). The curriculum was centered around: where does our food come from?
– Learning garden – pizza garden, soybean garden, potato garden, and the corn maze. These areas on the farm showed the kids in a fun way where their food comes from.
– Pumpkin Patch Scavenger hunt – find a flower, vine, gourd etc.
– Corn Maze – shaped in the state of Michigan, which signs telling the groups what grew in that part of the state.
Brochures from the Corn Growers Association, Michigan Potato Commission, Soybean Association, helped take the learning back to the classes.
School tours are becoming very popular among some farmers. They really are a “value added” market.
Our goal to make this farm more viable for the future is certainly becoming a reality if we continue diversifying and be creative. We are increasing income but more importantly I am able to stay at home with my family. We are diversifying the farm so that if any of our three children decide to farm there will be a viable place for them.
Our growth increases every year, we are adding a greenhouse and also have strawberries for next year. We plan to put a different curriculum together for next falls school children and have more kids out to the farm. Some different hands on activities are being planned. Spring tours will probably be a consideration for the next year. With the greenhouse we are considering letting schools come out and have hands on learning activities.
We see the benefits of selling directly to the customer – price, relationships formed in the community (my brother is known by many as their “producer man”) and helping educate our future voters. We also educate a lot of adults on these tours.
We see that by reconnecting the rural and urban with their food supply will mean more supportive when it comes to problems or developers want in.
We feel very fortunate to have such a loyal customer base and also a community who is supporting what we do. We have been invited to be on the Marshall Gardens Tour for next year. This event is held every summer and gets a lot of publicity. The garden club wants to learn about how we farm our veggies as well as other things we do.
We will also be speaking at the Great Lakes Vegetable meeting this winter. We will be talking about the things we do as well as future plans.
The Michigan Cattlemens Association has also asked us to be on their tour, to show other farmers there is life beyond the corn, soybeans, and wheat crops. We will be sharing our experiences and learn from them too.