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Lost Lake Farm, MI

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Lost Lake Farm, MI

Jenna Weiler

Tell us about your project, what do you do?

Lost Lake Farm is a small-scale, sustainable farm raising mixed vegetables and pastured pork. The farm is run by my husband Nate Cornell and I (Carissa Savage). The past few years we farmed on just a couple acres of borrowed land, but we recently purchased our own forty acres in Benzie County, Michigan. We are in the midst of moving our farm to the new land, located sixty miles away. We see this transition as an opportunity to drastically cut back on our outside work, as we dive full-time into expanding the farm. 

We raise over thirty varieties of vegetables with organic practices. Our non-GMO heritage breed pigs are an integral part of our farming operation, eating our excess vegetables and fertilizing/tilling our future fields. We currently sell our products at Farmer's Markets and through a Farm Credit CSA model, where members invest in our farm and then order whatever vegetables and cuts of meat they want throughout the year. We love that our members are getting exactly what they like and will actually use; our customers love the flexibility of the program!

How did you get into this business? What introduced you to and made you passionate about what you do?

When we met, Nathan was a decade into his culinary career. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and had traveled the country working at fine restaurants. He has always been inspired by what is fresh and available at a particular place or season. As he became increasingly interested in the quality of the ingredients he was cooking with, and where those ingredients came from, he decided to investigate the local food movement from the inside and switch gears to farming. He then spent two years apprenticing at organic vegetable farms in Oregon. 

Meanwhile, I was a recent college grad with a passion for community organizing and social justice. I worked for a non-profit that facilitated community gardens and a youth-run farm in low-income neighborhoods. I led children’s garden clubs and cooking classes, and helped start a community-run laying hen cooperative to provide organic eggs for the neighborhood, gaining valuable experience managing the seeding and plant-start programs for the gardens.

After a few years spent gardening and farming, we decided to move back to Nathan's hometown in Northern Michigan and start our own farm. Land prices in Oregon were out of reach for us, and we saw a need for more fresh, local food in the small communities in Michigan.

What are you most excited about right now? What are some of your future goals?

We are most excited about the potential to expand our farm on our new land! We will be able to provide so much more good food for our community with our additional space and plan to expand our sales to grocery stores and wholesale outlets. Our farm also has a good bit of hilly acreage, so we are considering adding sheep and/or a small orchard to the mix.

We've waited to plant perennials until now since we didn't have a permanent home for our farm, so we look forward to planting asparagus, berries, fruit trees, etc. We strongly believe that diversity is vital for economic and environmental resilience, especially on small farms,.

What frustrates you most about your work or the current food culture at large? What do you wish to change the most?

We are frustrated by a lot of national food policies that are shaped by lobbyists and large corporations. Policies that allow sugary breakfast cereals to be promoted as healthy food options; subsidies of mono-crops like corn, that may not even end up as food; and policies that discourage labeling of GMOs so people can't make educated decisions about their food. 

We want to bring transparency to food production, so people can know exactly how their vegetables and meats were raised. We want to promote healthy, whole foods instead of cheap processed "foods." It is extremely challenging to do this at a price point that is viable for the average customer and also provides a living wage to the farmer, but we're trying our best to get there.

Any recent moments of optimism? Things you see changing for the better?

We are encouraged by the efforts people in our community have made to purchase healthy food and support their local farmers. We know it is not always the easiest or most convenient choice to join a CSA or go to the farmer's market to shop, and we are grateful for those that do. 

The reality of the modern consumer is part of why we make our Farm Credit program so flexible. There's no complex rescheduling if members are out of town for a week, no waste from vegetables they don't like or don't know what to do with. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to purchase good, clean food. And to actually EAT the food they get! 

Up until now, we've been growing at such a small scale we haven't marketed any of our produce wholesale, but we are encouraged to see local food hubs forming so farmers can join forces to sell into larger institutions like hospitals and schools. The more we can get local food into grocery stores and other places where people routinely shop and eat, the better!

Favorite vegetable to eat, grow or wear?

It's hard to choose a favorite! There's something special about sugar snap peas though. They are one of the first vegetables we harvest in the spring other than greens, and it's so wonderful to have something raw, green, crunchy, and sweet after a long winter! Our customers love them, and they are our absolute favorite harvest snack.

Anything else you want us to know? Anything you want us to help you spread the word about?

You can find us at www.lostlakefarm.net, and on Facebook and Instagram.