In my Farm to Fork series I visit local farms around Ann Arbor and share what I learn.
Driving along Platt Road recently, I was arrested by a majestic sign. The sign states that U-Pick raspberries start August 15th - directly under that in huge block letters it said, “RASPBERRIES NOW.â€ Which is a full month early!
So I turned onto the driveway to investigate. Not only did I find ripe raspberries (amber, yellow, and red) and bountiful blackberries - I found Ed and Diane Makielski, owners of the Makielski Berry Farm for 60 years, a couple full of smiles, stories, jokes, and kindness.
According to Ed, the raspberries are early this year because he did not mow them down in February per usual. The blackberries are dripping from the vines because of the heat. In addition to the fruit, the Makielskis sell honey from hives that surround the raspberry patches, which is where the whole story started.69 years ago, Ed started beekeeping. He matriculated to Michigan State for beekeeping and small fruit production. As Ed shares, “Just before I graduated I got hold of a truck tractor - since I had the tractor and the bees I had to buy a farm!â€ The honey is raw and unprocessed and you can watch the bees dance between the flowers in the raspberry fields.
As the season progresses, the Makielski’s will have pumpkins, squash, and melons for you to pick in the fall. Diane reminiscences about their decision to begin planting, “Ed wanted to farm really and I really like to be outdoors. It fit! I like people. He tells a lot of jokes and we have really the greatest customers.â€ A sign over the honey looms large, “People who pick berries are nicer.â€
I met one of those loyal customers picking ripe red raspberries in the field. Carol O'Neill had been outfitted with a cut off gallon jug to put around her waist to collect the berries and a wooden flat with room for 6 quarts of berries. Devoted to the farm for 20 years, Carol's enthusiasm was contagious; “I can’t believe that the raspberries are ready! I don’t know why people buy them in stores when this is just here. It is cheaper than you can buy them in the store AND you get to pick exactly the ones you want. What else is better than totally fresh fruit, not sprayed, and you don’t have to worry who had their hands on it and what their hands were doing before. It’s just totally safe!â€
Small fruit is notorious for the amount of pesticides and is often included in the dirty dozen. I asked Ed about their spraying practices. His smile widened the whole time he talked. “We have always kept spraying to a minimum and it got to the point where I figured we could do without doing it. The only thing we do put on the berries is a little baking soda - that prevents mildew. Mildew can be a major problem especially around the first of September - you can have high humidity.â€
The blackberries will last for another 4-6 weeks and the raspberries go through the first of November. A quart of raspberries is $3.50 and blackberries are $3.95. See you picking!
Makielski Berry Farm, 7130 Platt Rd, Ypsilanti, 48197
Here is the link to the article.