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.
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!
Khnemu Studio on Fernwood Farm
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.