Michigan’s Lakeshore Harvest Country

Years ago, I adopted Michigan as my second home-state, undoubtedly much to the chagrin of native Michiganders who probably don’t care much for being invaded by us Illinoisans. I began traveling there with regularity in my early teens, visiting various parts of the state with my younger brother’s travel hockey team. A few years later, I made my first trip to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and that’s when I began thinking that Michigan just might be the place for me. In fact, I liked it so much, I went to college in Michigan (the GREEN AND WHITE school; not that blue and maize one).

We still spend a lot of time in Michigan these days, mostly in the southwestern/western parts of the state. It’s an area best known for sandy beaches and resort towns on Lake Michigan, and as a weekend and summer haven for out-of-towners. Lately the highlight for me has been visiting the collection of family farms in the area that make up Lakeshore Harvest Country. The farms dot the inner portion of the Lake Michigan coast from South Haven up on north to Saugatuck, and there are a few more a bit further inland near the town of Fennville. My family and I enjoy stopping at the farms to pick up fresh goodies like vegetables, honey, jams, and pies. But what makes these farms super cool is that, aside from the typical farm stand products, each farm in Lakeshore Harvest Country offers a little something for everyone in the family. The kids will enjoy the ability to see a variety of and get up close to farm animals. The adults will (ahem, do) enjoy the fact that most of the farms also double as wineries/wine shops, or as art studios/galleries. Though each farm in Lakeshore Harvest Country is worth a visit, some of my family’s favorites are:

Dutch Farm Market

It’s hard to miss Dutch Farm Market from the road – it’s huge! The farm store is housed in a big, old red barn, and is stocked with jars of homemade goodness and baskets of fresh-picked produce. There is a bakery attached to the store where the most delicious pies and cookies in southwestern Michigan can be found. We especially enjoy visiting Dutch Farm in the fall to do some apple picking. Visitors can choose to walk to the far ends of the orchard to start there and make their way back in, or ride out and back on a horse-drawn wagon! It’s an inexpensive way to have fun with the whole family and spend some time outdoors.

Dutch Farm Market by bill.d

Dutch Farm Market by bill.d

McIntosh Apple Orchards and Winery

This is a favorite stop for Mr. Working Mom’s Travels and me. Sure, there is apple picking in the fall and board games set up at the tables on the wraparound porch. But what lures us back to McIntosh is the wine. Guests can do some wine-tasting at McIntosh; in fact, it’s a regular stop on popular wine-tasting tours of southwestern Michigan. McIntosh makes and offers wines of all varieties but our favorite is the traditional draught apple cider. We always bring back our empty growlers to be refilled. It’s so good!

McIntosh Apple Orchards and Winery | Fennville, Michigan

McIntosh Apple Orchards and Winery

Khnemu Studio on Fernwood Farm

Taken with Retro Camera | Fall 2011

Taken with Retro Camera | Fall 2011

This may be one of my most favorite places anywhere. It’s a sustainable farm, pottery studio, and art gallery all in one place. One of the barns on the farm has been transformed into Khnemu Studio where owner Dawn Soltysiak holds pottery classes. Dawn’s items are for sale, as are the works of other local artists, in the adjacent retail section and also in the loft area of the barn. We have bought multiple pieces there to display in our home. As for the kids, they will enjoy getting up close with the animals at Fernwood Farm. Chickens freely roam the property. There are turkeys and peacocks in a spacious pen. Behind the barn is a corral with cows, a horse (Dude), and a llama (Sheba). Visitors are allowed to approach the corral to see the animals. Every time we’ve been there, a farm employee has been around to summon the animals over, and has let us pet Dude and give treats to him and to Sheba. That’s Lucia’s favorite thing to do.

My family was first introduced to Lakeshore Harvest Country and to the farms mentioned above when we participated in the organization’s annual road rally in 2008. We had such a good time that we’ve done the road rally every year since! Lakeshore Harvest Country also holds Family Farm Fest every summer (this year on July 28th). It’s great fun for the whole family, especially the little ones. There are crafts, games, and opportunities to pet some of the farm animals. If you can’t make it to one of Lakeshore Harvest Country’s special events, definitely stop by some (or all) of the farms when in southwestern Michigan.

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33 Responses to Michigan’s Lakeshore Harvest Country

  1. Amber Roth DeGrace June 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    I’m ashamed to say it, but I never ever once thought of Michigan as a travel destination. I think it’s the Mid-Atlantic area – we go North or South. You’ve whetted my appetite though! Those farms sound so charming.

  2. Francesca June 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    I’m not surprised that you say that about Michigan. I’ve heard it a lot from people outside the Midwest, and I completely understand why Michigan wouldn’t be considered a travel destination. It’s a shame, though, because the entire state has an incredible amount to offer. I’m lucky to live so close. Charming is the perfect way to describe these farms!

    • Jetting Around (@jettingaround) July 2, 2012 at 12:03 am #

      I was just talking to someone about how much there is to see in the Midwest, despite the “flyover” reputation. Michigan is great for a relaxing getaway – you can explore small towns with lovely main streets, Lake Michigan, orchards and – last, but definitely not least – wineries!! A friend of mine moved from Chicago to SW Michigan and once I went to visit, I knew I’d be back. 🙂

      • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

        There IS a lot to see in the Midwest but we know that because we live here. I think it gets overlooked by people from other parts of the country (and world) because we don’t have mountains or ocean beaches, or any famous amusement parks. But we have world-class cities, museums, and dining; as well as the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Oh, I could go on and on 😉

  3. mrsoaroundtheworld July 1, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    I love finding these local events and places in small town America – and very curious about Michigan. Never been 🙂

    • Francesca July 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

      You must go, Mrs. O. During one of your trips to America, plan in a little time for the Midwest and check out Michigan.

  4. lola July 1, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    i always enjoy a bit of farm fun! summertime and the fall are especially lovely times to be out in the fields appreciating the beauty a farm brings us.

    • Francesca July 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

      Totally spot-on, Lola! Fall is my favorite time of year anyway, but it’s especially beautiful in Michigan.

  5. D.J. - The World of Deej July 1, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    With all the great articles I’m seeing go around about Michigan, I’m thinking perhaps a visit is needed!

    • Francesca July 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      For sure, Deej! Like I told Mrs. O, plan a little Midwestern escape and include Michigan in your itinerary. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

  6. Jetting Around (@jettingaround) July 2, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    I am headed to SW Michigan this week and it’s great to read about someone else’s great experience in the state. “Pure Michigan” has a lot to offer (wineries and orchards are indeed great) and it’s one of my favorite weekend getaway places. Nice write-up, Francesca. 🙂

    • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      Thanks, Pola! We’re lucky now that the in-laws have taken up permanent residence in southwest Michigan. We always have a place to stay!

  7. travelrinserepeat July 2, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    I feel like Michigan gets a bad rap because many people think of Detroit. But there really is so much natural beauty and amazing places like these farms. It’s a state I need to explore more of.

    • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      I totally agree. There is so much more to Michigan than Detroit (which isn’t even all THAT bad), with natural beauty in just about every part of the state.

  8. Dominique July 2, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Detroit gets a bad rap, too. Like any big city, there are problems, but there is lots of great history in Detroit, and lots of folks making new history in town. Detroit’s riverfront, the Dequindre Cut (biking/walking trail), the open-air Eastern Market, Midtown with its various museums and the Wayne State University campus…those are just a few of the gems that spring immediately to my mind.
    I do love the southwest corner of Michigan as well, and these look like some great places to visit next time I’m out that way. Some great lighthouses and wine there as well 🙂

    • Jetting Around (@jettingaround) July 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      I wish the good things in Detroit would get as much attention as the issues. The areas you mentioned are really nice and I especially like the Market.

    • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      Yes, Dominique, great wine in southwest Michigan! Some of our favorites come from McIntosh which I mention in the post. The lighthouses are awesome, too! I do need to make a trip back to Detroit; it’s been a long time since I’ve been there, and I’m sure much has changed – for the better – since my last visit. And I really want to see a game at Comerica Park!

  9. Dawn Soltysiak July 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Thanks for the kind words about our lovely state and region…and my studio/farm! I really do love where I live and it is a beautiful state. We will see you on your next visit. And we will have treats for Sheba and Dude 🙂

    • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      You are so welcome, Dawn. Thanks for commenting. We might see you later this week!

  10. the lazy travelers July 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    ahhh it’s way too early, but you’re making us excited for fall!!

    • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      I love fall! I don’t intentionally try to bypass summer, but autumn really is my favorite time of year. And it’s especially beautiful in Michigan!

  11. Adam Sommer July 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    I agree about Michigan….it is a surprisingly great vacation destination! I never thought of it myself until I was forced to go for a family reunion week to Saugatuck, and had a great time! We often alternate between South Haven and Saugatuck….really beautiful part of the country, very relaxing, and amazing summer weather.

    This summer I’ll have to try many of your suggestions here….the Upper Pen is a possible next place for our family reunion!

    • Francesca July 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

      Excellent, Adam! South Haven has become our home (away from home) base in Michigan. I’ve been to Saugatuck many times but I’ll tell ya, I really like Douglas and Holland. I think the U.P. is my favorite part of the state; you’ll love it if you get to go up there for your family reunion!

  12. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) July 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Ok…can we skip summer and go straight to fall? {sigh…} And I couldn’t have told you in a million years what you call people from Illinois or Michigan. Learn some thing new everyday.

    • Francesca July 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Ha ha, glad I was able to teach you something new 🙂

  13. Raul July 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Wow, Francesca, my knowledge of your part of the country seems so narrow when I read your writeups! I had NO idea there were wineries in Michigan!! I am going to have to check them out. For the jams, honey and pies too, of course 🙂

    • Francesca July 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      All the goodies you mention make a trip to Michigan well worth it. Come visit again; we can take a ride up there and I’ll show you around!

  14. Ted Nelson (@travelingted) July 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Michigan does rock. Lots of interesting outdoor places and also the wineries and farms as you mention.

    • Francesca July 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Michigan totally rocks, Ted!

  15. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) July 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Is the wine good in Michigan? And glad to know you are green and white… not the big blue.
    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Dominique July 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

      Lots of award-winning wine in Michigan, and the number of wineries here seemed to have grown exponentially over the past decade or so. I’m more familiar with the wineries in northern Michigan (among my favorite Michigan wines is the Late Harvest Riesling from Chateau Grand Traverse), although it looks like there are a lot of new ones I need to try in the southwestern portion of the state!

      • Francesca July 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

        Craig, I couldn’t have said it any better than Dominique has. I, too, am a big fan of the wineries in northern Michigan, especially Chateau Grand Traverse. That part of the state lies on the same parallel as Bordeaux, France (or so I’ve been told), and that’s why the wines are so good. As for the wines in southwestern Michigan, they’re not your traditional Riesling or chardonnay; you’ll find more fruit(y) wines, made with fruit from the local orchards. Not really my taste; way too sweet and syrupy for me.

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