Last year the Leelanau Conservancy purchased the Sonny Swanson Farm along with 90 acres including 73 acres of wetlands and 2000 feet of shoreline on Little Traverse Lake. One of the Conservancy’s goals was to see agriculture return to the 15-acre farmstead. Numerous local farmers applied and Ben Brown’s business plan was selected. The Conservancy explains that:
The bearded, bespectacled Brown, 27, earned a degree in Ecological Agriculture from the University of Vermont in 2007. He has apprenticed or worked on seven different farms—from family operated CSAs in Pennsylvania to cherry orchards on Old Mission Peninsula. Most recently he has worked growing vegetables for Leelanau Cultured Veggies, while running his new business Haymaker Poultry Co. on rented land. .
…The Conservancy’s Board recently approved a 30-month lease with an option to buy possible after 24 months, if both parties are satisfied with the arrangement at the time. As for Brown, he can’t wait to get going. “I’ve been looking for something to call my own,” says Brown. “Something permanent.” The agreement is expected to be signed soon.
The young farmer hopes to be stocking the famous yellow stand with at least a few varieties of vegetables this summer and is allowed to also bring in 50% of what he sells from other local farms too. But his main source of income will come from small-scale, grass-fed poultry raised on site that will also help restore the land’s fertility and eliminate the need for any fertilizer or chemicals. Chickens and turkeys will graze in the fresh air in moveable, open pens, foraging for insects, grazing on rotated crops, while simultaneously enriching the soil. The result: hormone-free, antibiotic-free chickens and turkeys he will sell right from the farm. (To receive an order form to purchase a fresh bird – available every two weeks June through October, email Ben/Haymaker Poultry Co. at firstname.lastname@example.org.)