MOFFA Farm Profile- Gateway Farm (Part 2)


Welcome to another installment of the Farm Profile. In this space we will share some questions and answers posed to Michigan farmers pursuing the many roads to sustainable agriculture. We hope we can all learn something from their responses and experience.

You can find part 1 of the Gateway Farm profile here.

Farm Name: Gateway Farm Hub, Washtenaw County

Farmers and/or Employees: Around 20 (mostly seasonal and part-time employees)

Farm Size: 12 Acres

Certifications: USDA Certified Organic (by EcoCert), Real Organic Certified

Contact Information: (website); [email protected] (email); 1-734-634-7222 (phone); 10665 Joy Rd. Plymouth, MI 48170 (street address)

Q & A

Is there anything you tried in the past that you wish you hadn’t? Too many sales obligations, “wrong” crop, poor investment in infrastructure, etc.?

Gateway Farm has tried lots of approaches, crops, techniques, and so on. There’s a high degree of informed experimentation in a farm that’s only 6 years old and is innovating toward being sustainable and regenerative. We do believe every mistake (misstep) is a lesson. We are currently redesigning many aspects of the farm to be more agile, adaptive, and resilient to be able to respond to whatever changes and challenges occur. On a practical level we wish the irrigation system was less ad hoc, and had been better planned and installed initially as one system.

What aspect or crop would you add to your farm if you could? Rice, smoothie bar, wind or solar farming, etc.?

Gateway Farm is planning towards investing in commercial kitchen facilities, giving us the capacity to do canned items, pickled veggies, (additional) dried herbs, vinegars, and more. We are hoping to one day have a café offering coffee, tea, and smoothies, and maybe some simple food made from the farm’s produce and value-added products. And we have many more ideas. We hope to bring in small flocks of livestock like sheep and chickens. We want to expand our on-site space rentals over the coming years, and also create a year-round indoor classroom and event space. Finally, we would like to have the capacity to process and sell cut flowers and foliage already growing on-site.

What niches do you see out there that you would like to fill? Partnering with a restaurant, co-oping with other farmers to build a slaughterhouse, a biochar operation, etc.?

We are redesigning the farm now, so many options are possible. Bringing chickens and sheep on to the farm (as mentioned). Possibly coppicing and making our own biochar (maybe next year?). Partnering with a chef or restaurant would be a wonderful option as well.

If you have had varied experience and can answer, are you happiest when you are dealing with many customers (a market), fewer customers (a restaurant), virtual customers (drop-off/pickup with little physical person-to-person), “no” customers (a grain elevator)?

What makes our team so successful is the diversity in everyone’s abilities and strengths. Our markets’ team members have proven themselves to thrive when communicating with our customers and answering questions, while some members of our team are happiest when riding the mower or weeding solo. We all work together to provide the best customer experience, but also maximize our efficiency as a working farm.

What do you think would be the most useful way for farmers to co-op, if you had to pick one? Collective marketing, collective purchasing of materials, shared infrastructure investment, consumer education, government lobbying, etc.?

Farmers nearly always collectively support each other—probably because only farmers know how all-encompassing farming actually is. Collective purchasing of bulk materials works well to bring down unit costs. But also, groups of like-minded organic farmers, such as here in the Ann Arbor/Dexter/Chelsea/Ypsilanti/Plymouth area, can powerfully educate the community.

What question do you wish had been asked that wasn’t, and what is your answer!

What do you enjoy most about farm life?

Answer: How you have to fully, bodily engage with all aspects of a farm.

What are your favorite food crops currently?

Answer: Purple shiso, beta mix greens, and gooseberries.

What was your favorite farm moment from 2023?

Answer: Children on farm tours being so happy to see inside the worm farm, or to learn about perennial walking onions, or eating fresh strawberries here at Gateway Farm. It is wonderful to have people asking questions, taking photographs, and offering thanks.

What was something new on your farm in 2023?

Answer: We have turned half a hoop house into an event space and perennial food growing area. We landscaped the space to include raised beds and trellises full of edgy herbs, greens, and fruit crops, and added a crushed granite floor, lighting, and entrance gardens. It’s a very special and welcoming space we call “The Wild Fig” Event Space.