Leelanau News and Events

It's March, So It Must Be Harvest Time In Leelanau

By Ross Boissoneau | March 3, 2023

It’s early March, so it must be…harvest time? For some, growing crops is never out of season, including at Leelanau’s own 9 Bean Rows and Loma Farm.  

At 9 Bean Rows, owner Nic Welty points to cool weather greens still growing in a hoop house, despite the wintry weather outside. “We have five (varieties of) lettuce in one hoop house. There’s rosemary, oregano, fairly hardy greens like spinach, kale, chard,” says Welty, who owns and runs the farm and adjacent café/market with his wife Jen. While the outdoor pizza oven and café are closed for the winter, the market and bakery are open daily.

Just a few miles away is Loma Farm and its sister operation, Farm Club. The former is what owners Nic and Sara Theisen call a small-scale organic farm, while the latter is the combo restaurant/market/brewery and farm owned by the Theisens and Gary and Allison Jonas. The restaurant’s menu is largely plant-based and (with the exception of meats) features items almost exclusively from its two farms.

Gary Jonas says the question was whether they could base the bulk of the restaurant’s menu on food from the farm year-round. “The answer is yes,” he says proudly.

The restaurant’s daily menu reflects that. There’s a carrot and collard salad with an escabeche, a marinade of 15 summer vegetables, with shaved daikon radish and cashews. Pozole Rojo is a Mexican stew incorporating nixtamalized corn, chicken, vegetables, lime and a variety of chili peppers. In the winter, they use red peppers such as fresno and guajillo, which are harvested in the fall and dried. In the summer, the renamed Pozole Verde uses fresh green peppers along with tomatillos and cilantro.

Farm Club also offers special ticketed dinners, such as a recent one that featured Chef James Bloomfield (formerly of Alliance in Traverse City). Both the special dinner menus and the regular ones feature a huge variety of plants and plant-derived ingredients, upwards of some 50 or 60 different varieties of greens, peppers, grains, starches, and more. Some are freshly harvested, while others are what Theisen calls storage crops. “Root vegetables, turnips, rutabaga,” Theisen says. “We’re still harvesting kale, collard greens, spinach.”

Farm Club’s Jonas notes that “it would be a lot easier to open a restaurant, get deliveries, not change the menu. But it’s what we want to eat, it’s good for you, good for the environment.”

“This is our mission, our goal, cooking what we’re growing,” echoes Theisen. “It’s not a marketing campaign but an ethic.”

That emphasis on the environment is a commonality for both Loma and Farm Club and at 9 Bean Rows. Welty acknowledges it would be easier to grow crops if they were to pump heated air into the hoop houses. The farm could also offer a more diverse selection. But that would involve higher cost and a larger carbon footprint, neither of which he and Jen are interested in doing. “I emphasize more sustainability … without burning a lot of energy. You save money, there’s less pollution,” he says.

Another commonality between the two farm operations is that most of their crops remain onsite. Loma actually started as a CSA and supplying restaurants before opening Farm Club. Today that side of the business has diminished as they concentrate on supplying their own restaurant.

At 9 Bean Rows, the CSA program is enhanced by the multi-farm MI Farm Cooperative. Nic is one of the prime movers behind the program, which brings together more than a dozen local farm operations. “A small amount leaves here, some farm-to-school, the rest to MI Farm Coop,” he says.

The opportunity to farm year-round and store crops is something neither Leelanau business owner takes for granted. “Having 50 crops to cook with is remarkable. We’re living from the land,” says Theisen.

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