Local farmers provide fresh produce

Natural grown vegetables to be transplanted to the field are started in the 30-foot by 72-foot-long hoop house at the Zilke farm.

Photographed at the peak of ripeness is fresh naturally grown produce offered by Zilke Vegetable Farm of Milan.

Vicki and Tom Zilke, owners and operators of Zilke Vegetable Farm in Milan, are gearing up for the growing season.  The homestead has three hoop houses and the couple is busy preparing the beds with compost and seeding trays. No fertilizer is used, as the Zilke produce is certified naturally grown.

Besides bringing fresh vegetables to area residents at their farm stand on Carpenter Rd next month, their healthy fresh produce is available at the Ypsilanti Farmer’s Market, the in-season weekly market held at the Original Gravity in Milan and through the Community Supported Agriculture program.

By joining the CSA program and purchasing a season’s worth of produce or “share” before the harvest season begins, members benefit by receiving the highest quality fresh produce throughout the growing season at an affordable price from a trusted source.  The pre-paid agreement benefits farmers by guaranteeing a market for their produce and provides capital at a time it is most needed.

One share consists of a half-bushel box filled with six to 10 different vegetables each week that are ripe and in season.  Spring shares include items such as lettuce, spinach, peas, onions and herbs.   Summer shares are filled with green beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers and cucumbers.  This is followed with fall shares of squash, potatoes, honey and more.  Half-shares are also available.  More information can be found on the farm website.

When it comes to growing, the Zilkes are well qualified. Vicki is a Michigan State University master gardener and husband Tom has farmed all his life.  He holds a degree from MSU in nursery and landscape.  They actively support their community in many ways.  They offer tours of the farm to Milan schools, support learning through their volunteer work with Growing Hope,  a community outreach program based in Ypsilanti.  According to the organization’s website, the members educate, inspire and empower people to improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access.  An emphasis is placed on low-income families and introducing home gardening. “I really recommend that group,” Vicki Zilke said.

Agricultural students from MSU will soon visit the Zilke homestead on a field trip.  One of the topics of discussion will be recycling.  The group will see the array of containers Vicki uses for seeding and view the hoop house Tom built from an old raised swimming pool that has piped heat from the couple’s basement

The Zilkes invite you to join them at any of the venues and encourage you to contact them with any questions regarding their various programs.  Call 734-260-2324 or visit them at www.zilkevegetablefarm.com .  Email:  zilkevegetablefarm [at] gmail [dot] com.  The farm stand is located at 12491 Carpenter Rd., Milan.

For information on Growing Hope, call 734-786-8401.

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