Phyllis Wells, then Munro, grew up in farming in the Elk Rapids area and graduated from Elk Rapids High School in 1965. And now, Wells Family Farm, Mike and Phyllis Wells have a family-owned community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, which grows small fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers.They have been growing high-quality produce here since 1983.
I asked them to comment on two issues about farming that have been in the national news lately. Here are their comments.
Family Farm – Driving
It was nice for us to have Philip (our son) and one of his friends, both of whom worked on our farm in the past, to take the tractor safety course and be able to drive the tractor some of the time, before they had drivers licenses. I agree that tractors can be very dangerous for young drivers, but it seems like the system we currently have where they have to have the course (I don’t know if it is a law.) has been working well for many of us. I expect it would be a hardship for some farms if their younger workers couldn’t also drive equipment, but safety should come first. Even more important is “who” is being allowed to drive. Some of our employees, including much older ones, were not good with equipment and we kept them away from it. If a person cannot hear when something is going wrong with a piece of equipment, then they are likely to break it or themselves.
Successful American Farmers
I am happy for those corn and soybean farmers in the midwest, however. Here are some sources to check. On Monday, November 28, Mike and I heard Peter Payette give an interesting commentary on success in the Traverse City area, in particular about the T.C. farmers market nearly doubling in number of vendors this year. That was on Interlochen Public Radio and may have been during “All Things Considered” where they often take time for a story or two about local issues. Also, contact the E.R. Chamber of Commerce and ask for Don McLain’s contact information, if you don’t have it already. It is my understanding that he had to actually reject some vendors’ requests for a spot at our E.R. market because of lack of space. However, there might be a lot more vendors because of the downturn in the economy, but that doesn’t mean they are farmers. There were 5 bread vendors there this year, etc. etc. Don might be able to tell you if there were actually more vendors who are growing fruit and vegetables and herbs or raising meat. Of that fact, I’m not sure, but hopeful.
The Traverse City area seems to have more young, entrepreneurial farmers than our area does. We keep working toward that, but one young E.R. couple that we work with is trying to buy land of even a few acres of good soil and a house, and they either cannot afford what is available or the land is no good. Is all our good farmland in cherries? They are thinking of relocating to the Benzonia area. We would hate to see them leave!