Whetham Organic Farm, Inc.
Who Are We?
To introduce ourselves to you, the public at large, is not an easy matter. I can say that we are Clarke and Pat Whetham and we are farmers, but that description hardly does either of us justice. So let me expand upon the history of our farm and our involvement in the organic farming community.
We have been farming here in Flushing, Michigan, for over 30 years, on land owned by Clarke’s family since the mid-1950s. Originally the farm was almost exclusively soybeans, with an occasional field of small grain. The vegetable garden was for the family only. I started growing the vegetables organically first because they were my domain exclusively and I did not care for the use of chemicals. The day I learned about organic gardening and farming led us on the path that has become our life.
I was involved in various organic organizations in Michigan for more than 25 years, editing publications, serving as an officer, and spreading the word about organic food by speaking with people from all over the state. From 1992 to 2010, I was on the Board of Directors of Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (www.moffa.org), learning about local food systems and how organic farming fits into them. I have also been an organic inspector and Certification Director of Organic Growers of Michigan. I continue to help people who are in the process of gaining organic certification for their farms by working as a consultant and as a presenter at conferences. I also grow vegetables.
Clarke is a hard-working farmer.. As farmers go, he is an excellent steward of the soil. While your average conventional farmer may only survey his fields from the seat of his tractor, Clarke views his land from a closer perspective. He walks the fields in spring, summer, and fall. He pays close attention to what is growing, to which weeds are invading which field, and to where the crops are not doing well. He also helps me in the gardens, hoeing and tilling, and helping to put up the fencing for peas and tomatoes. Now that he is “retired” from off-farm jobs, he helps more each year. Now – in the winter of 2012 – he is building a movable hoophouse for use in the garden.
Although our organic field crops have often been sold overseas – spelt to Switzerland, soybeans to Japan, we now try to sell even those closer to home. Our vegetables are for local consumption, and we believe that buying locally is the answer to many of the world’s problems.
Educating the consumers in our area about the positive aspects of eating locally grown food has not been easy. But times are changing and even here, on the outskirts of busy suburbia, the message is getting out. Many people buy organic in the stores but some of them are not really satisfied. Eventually they need a greater connection to their food. For those local people we created a Community Supported Agriculture program here on our farm. We also joined forces with other small local organic farmers to start an on-line farmers market (CSA Farmers Market) and are selling our extra vegetables there.
Our farm has been certified organic since 1988. That makes us old – but not ancient – in the world of organic farming.