On Friday July 1st, the market team went to visit Chanterelle Vogtmann's farm, known as the Silverbeet Farm, in Bangor, MI. Chanterelle grows on two acres of land, and even though she just bought a small tractor, she does most of the work by hand with the help of her sister, and another worker, Gwen
The farm does not belong to Chanterelle. She leases land from an organic farm, and shares the land and the tools. However, some day Chanterelle would like to find a place where she can live on the farm. She explained that traveling from Kalamazoo to Bangor everyday day was one of her biggest challenges. However, she would like to keep her farm small and specialized, with the help of Gwen and her sister.
Chanterelle decided she wanted to become a farmer because her mom is a beekeeper, so she has always lived in a big garden. Additionally, she grew up vegetarian, so she was used to eating a lot of vegetables. She said that she loves growing things. This is her second year on this farm, where she uses organic practices. She does not want to have an inspector come to certify it, because she has a personal relationship with everybody she sells to, and does not want prices to get more expensive for them. She told us that the soil was perfect to grow because it already has the setup for the sort of farming she does, that is, she rotates everything every year. She explained that this is a requirement for organic farms. She told us that an issue is with neighboring farms that are not organic. Their pesticides can fly on Chanterelle’s crops, and it is hard to avoid it.
Chanterelle explained that when she plants, she has a general idea of what she plans to grow. Right now, she is about to start a new round of beans, zucchini, cucumber and head lettuce. The production starts around February and ends in December. During the winter, she has a greenhouse for the seeds, that she heats with wood and propane for backup from February to April. Then, she moves the plants to the secondary area to get them use to being outside. She uses the wintertime to do some research and planning for the next year, as well as to rest. During the summer, she covers some of her plants, such as some broccoli, which will allow them to come up but not outcompete.
Chanterelle grows some special plants on her farm such as the, Japanese indigo. She grows it for a local artist who will dry it and turn it into a natural dye. In the future, she would like to do more specialties like the indigo.
On her farm, you can also find:
Romano beans (Italian style), purple flakes, bells peppers (won’t be ready for another three weeks), paprika, lettuces, tomatoes (26 varieties, ready by the end of the month), eggplant, basil, beans, zucchini, three varieties of kale, cabbages, potatoes (no fruits except tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini. Cherries and apples for personal use), garlic, wild radish (ready in about two weeks), nigella (cupflower), tulsi or holy basil (helps the body adapt to stress. Can put it in tea), thyme, rosemary, sage, eucalyptus.
You can find Chanterelle on the north side of the pavillion at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, and can find her products at Food Dance, Bells, and other restaurants. She also sells flowers, herbs and vegetables to the PFC. Follow the Silverbeet farm on Facebook!
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