Farm Manager: Beverly Ruesink
Season: Full season: May-October (20 weeks); Summer season: July-September (12 weeks)
Pick-up: Tuesdays at Morgan and York after 12pm; also Tuesdays at Needle-Lane Farm in Tipton, Saturday at the Tecumseh Farmers Market, Saturday at the Adrian Farmers Market
Cost: Full Season/Family (20 weeks) for 3-4 people: $620; Summer Season/Single (12 weeks) for 1-2 people: $260
Cost per week: Full season: $31/week; Summer season: $22/week
Growing practice: Organic practice (unconventionally grown)
Note: beef available by the quarter, plus cut flowers, and u-cut Christmas trees
“I’ve been thinking about saying that our produce is “unconventionally grown,” muses farm manager Beverly Ruesink. “Since we don’t pay for it, we can’t use the “o” word. But everything we do is in keeping with organic practice.” After earning her degree in Horticulture from Michigan State University and helping to start the MSU organic farm CSA, Ruesink came home to her family’s 70 acre farm to start the Needle-Lane CSA in 2005.
In addition to the produce CSA, the farm also offers beef by the quarter, and they have a U-cut Christmas tree patch, along with wreaths and decorations for the holidays. And, they offer a cut flower share, a weekly quart-sized bunch of flowers like: asters, sweet peas, gladiolus, dahlias, statice, sunflowers, and zinnias and more. They say “Flowers are a part of the farm’s biodiversity mission and not only add beauty to our farm but also to your house. Flowers also provide habitat and food for beneficial insects and companion planting benefits.”
Needle-Lane has about 10 acres under cultivation for produce and Ruesink says that it’s grown, year by year. She says “people really like the freshness of the vegetables, and knowing they’re supporting a local farmer.”
A CSA is a complex system of growing thousands of seedlings, planning long-term crop rotations, and fixing machinery, as well as communicating with members, accounting, and setting delivery schedules. When I asked Ruesink if being a woman in charge of running this kind of operation had any special challenges or conferred any particular advantages she demurred “With CSA management, anyone could do it if they really wanted to. Not having a partner in this means the burden of all the complexity of running a farm and solving problems comes down to me. But I’m working on finding the right people to step into different positions.”
Like many of the CSA farms in our area, Needle-Lane mentors a few interns each season who in turn help with the work of the farm. Ruesink says “If you really want to work on a farm I’ll take you if you’re smart and want to learn and work hard.” It seems like there are more and more young people coming for these internships who are interested in learning farming. Ruesink thinks perhaps that’s because there’s “an inherent part of a human being that wants to be connected to nature, or maybe it’s our current disconnection that has made more people interested.”
Needle-Lane Farm isn't one of the farms that generally shows up at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, but it does drop off at Morgan and York on Packard on Tuesday afternoons. Since Needle Lane has worked out this relationship with the store, their share boxes are stored in Morgan and York's large coolers and can be picked up whenever the store is open. So, you could even come by on Wednesday morning and it would still be fresh.