Get to Know Avalon Farms Homegrown
Our concern for our community, and soil and water resources is the framework for our family business. We have committed to continue using this land for food production by enrolling more than 500 acres into Michigan's Purchase of Development Rights program. We are the 50th farm to do so and are proud that future generations of the family will have the opportunity to farm the land that has now been in our family for four generations.
Avalon Farms has been in our family since 1932 when Niles and Cecile Hagelshaw moved to Climax. Niles and Cecile had the type of farm typical of that era with dairy cows, beef cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens in the way of livestock. Crops included corn, oats, barley, hay, wheat and buckwheat. They had large vegetable gardens and preserved most of their own food. Homemade ice cream, made with cream from their cows was a memorable treat.
Niles and Cecile's daughter, Norma and her husband LJ Leach, eventually took over the day to day operations of Avalon Farms. LJ had a degree in Crop and Soil Science from Michigan State University, adding certified seed wheat and seed corn to the cropping mix. There were changes to livestock production on the farm, becoming more specialized, with eventually having only dairy cows and beef cattle. Norma taught Home Economics for more than 30 years.
Larry, Norma and LJ's son, and his wife Brigette, started their farming business in the mid-1980's growing corn and soybeans. Their management of the farm changed from dairy and beef cattle to finishing hogs, growing seed corn, seed soybeans and specialty wheat. Some years a crop of green beans followed the wheat crop after it was harvested and the straw baled.
Larry and Brigette's daughter Kelly graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Agricultural Communications and went to work for Upjohn, out at their farm in Richland, as part of the Swine sales team. Upjohn became Upjohn Pharmacia, and eventually Pharmacia. Kelly decided she wanted to come back to the farm, which resulted in the hydroponic greenhouse enterprise, market gardens and Share of the Farm CSA.
In 1999 we built the hydroponic greenhouse and in 2002 we began our Share of the Farm subscription delivery service. We refer to it as a "hybrid CSA" (CSA stands for community supported agriculture) because we partner with other family farmers so that our customers get things we don't grow, like strawberries, apples and dark sweet cherries. There are other differences as well, such as payment options, and the program continues to evolve to meet customers expressed needs.
During spring, summer and fall our on farm market, The Veggie Barn, is stocked with all the wonderfully fresh produce we raise, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables raised by family farms from all over Michigan. These farmers are not just business relationships, but friends as well. From Trever and Jason Meachum in Hartford we get strawberries and Honey Crisp apples. The outstanding dark sweet cherries are the work of Josh and Barb Wunsch from Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City. Jim Kreitner provides us with wonderful white peaches, pears and other fruit. Our brown eggs are from Phil Sheets. The store also carries local honey and maple syrup from Greg Willis. Partnering with farmers we know makes it possible to provide you with the highest quality fresh produce possible.
Eating fresh, locally grown Michigan products helps us all. Even our communities benefit, since locally spent food dollars circulate back into the community between 3 and 7 times. It is estimated that if every Michigan household spent just 5% more on local food, it would keep over $700 million more circulating within Michigan. Michigan Agriculture already contributes over $101 Billion to Michigan's economy annually.
At Avalon Farms we utilize environmentally sound farming practices, however we are not USDA Certified Organic. We use many pest problem prevention practices like using disease resistant seed varieties and varieties which are appropriate for our growing conditions, rotating crops, beneficial insects and pest scouting. In our tomato greenhouse we don't use insecticides at all since we pollinate with bumblebees. The two primary insect pests in the tomato house are white fly and spider mite, both of which can be controlled with beneficial insects.
We prevent soil erosion by employing no-til and minimum tillage practices, depending on the field crop being grown. Not only do these practices prevent soil erosion, they also help to preserve soil moisture. Preventing soil compaction is also a concern so the fewest number of passes through the fields and gardens possible is important. Even the foot traffic in the high tunnels is limited to center aisles to prevent soil compaction.
Most of our field crop acreage is irrigated with center pivots. In some cases surface water, specifically ponds, are the water source. In others, wells are the source. Irrigation water use is closely monitored, recorded, and reported to the State of Michigan annually.
Avalon Farms is verified in three systems through MAEAP, Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, Farmstead, Cropping, and Greenhouse. MAEAP is a voluntary program to prevent pollution risks. Learn more about MAEAP here http://www.maeap.org/