12147 Corey Lake Road, Three Rivers, Michigan (269) 244-5690

Corey Lake Orchards

Opening Friday, May 4th for the 2018 Season!

Mother Nature has us using a new word – “Sprinter” – to describe this spring…which seems to be stuck in winter mode.  “Sprinter” has us going through a range of emotions–none of which we could find an emoji for! We’re pleased that the cold weather has held back bud development in all of the fruit, which will delay the bloom time when there should be reduced risk of damaging frosts. We are less pleased with the wet and cold soil delaying planting of vegetables and other field work. The official growing degree day charts which farmers use to judge when to plant and plant development has us at least one week to ten days later than what has been a normal Michigan spring. But we all know there really isn’t a normal anymore when it comes to Pure Michigan weather. So we’ll keep you posted as everything develops.

Organic lettuce starts covered in snow on 4/18 — thankfully a cold hardy crop.

So, despite Mother Nature being confused, we’re moving forward and preparing to open for the 2018 season on Friday, May 4th with our normal daily hours of 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week, including holidays!

We typically have asparagus and rhubarb ready when we open, but check back with us as it will depend on the weather if they are ready in time. (Get used to hearing that phrase again!)

Bedding plants: We will be stocking vegetables, flower annuals, and tomato plants as they are ready for planting, along with seed potatoes and onion sets. So as you think about your garden needs, plan on getting your plants here. We hope to have most of our plants available on opening weekend.

Straw: We have extra bales of straw available for your mulching needs. They are $6/bale or 4 bales for $20. If you need these before we officially open, just call us and we’ll set up a time to meet you. 269-244-5690.

The bakery will also open for the year on Friday, May 4th, and yes, they will be making donuts that day. (Reminder: we make our cake donuts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.) More to come on the offerings they will have for this opening weekend and what they are planning for Mother’s Day Weekend so that you can place your orders for Mother’s Day, which is Sunday May 13th.

Next week we will give you a line up of the other local and Michigan made products that we will be carrying again this year, along with some new ones. And some ideas on Mother’s Day gifts!

We are currently harvesting lettuce, spinach, green onions, carrots, and kale in our certified organic hoophouse. You can pick any of that up at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers (the fridge is in the back) or you can call us to make an appointment to pick it up here. We harvest and restock the fridge every week!

Becca has been locked away in the cidery for many hours this winter and spring and will be introducing some interesting new ciders when we open as well as we will have some of your favorites from last year, including: Brunch, Ginger, Hometown Hero, Currant/Cacao, Sweet, Semi-Sweet, and Dry ciders. We also have our full line of Hubbard’s Brandy.

Our cider is also available at The Local in Centreville, The Riviera in Three Rivers, Dussel’s Farm Market in Cassopolis, and Craft Beer Cellar in Grand Rapids. We will re-open our cider and brandy tastings on Memorial Day Weekend.

Happenings on the farm:

We got our potatoes planted on Friday before the rain hit. On hand to help us plant was our new employee, Austin, who comes to us with extensive experience from his own family’s potato farm. Austin will be primarily helping us with maintenance and IPM work (Integrated Pest management) this year, and probably will get pulled into just about everything else here with his desire to learn about the full cycle of fruit and vegetable production all the way to a customer’s plate. Welcome Austin!

Austin checking seed potato depth

If you drive by, you’ll see the straw has been spread on the strawberry fields, which serves as a weed mulch, keeps the berries cleaner by not having them touch the soil, and makes it much more comfortable for those who get right down on their hands and knees when they pick!

The asparagus field has gone through the spring preparation steps of being mowed down and lightly disked…..now just awaiting warm temperatures to get it to push through the soil.

The greenhouse tomatoes are coming along great!   As soon as they turn red, it’s BLT time!

We’re into spring pruning this week, finishing the blueberries, plums, cherries and pears, taking advantage of these extra days when we can’t be planting in the field.

The plans for the next few weeks are to prepare the fields and plant, plant, plant.

Once again we will be sharing more about the happenings here on the farm via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so find us there and enjoy the days along with us.

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon!  Everyone at Corey Lake Orchards

Playing hide and week in the greenhouse on a “Sprinter” day

 

Pies, Fresh Vegetables and Hard Ciders for Your Holiday Gatherings

Easter and Passover are coming early this year (whether spring is here or not!) and we are happy to meet you if you need to pick up some things for your holiday gatherings. Please just call us at 269-244-5690, and if we don’t answer, we’ll call you back soon to arrange a time.

We have the following available:

  • Frozen ‘take and bake” pies from our bakery:  cherry, pumpkin, pecan, apple, peach, and strawberry rhubarb
  • Alcohol products: hard ciders, brandy, or wine. Currently available hard ciders: Dry, Sweet, Black Currant/Cacao, Hometown Hero (Blackberry/Elderberry/Rose Hip), Semi-Sweet, and Ginger. As always, our hard ciders, wines, and brandies are gluten/grain free.
  • Other: honey and maple syrup
  • Vegetables: certified organic spinach, carrots, kale, lettuce, scallions.

As of now we have organic produce for sale at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and our refrigerator is in the back of the store – we tend to re-fill it on Tuesday nights so Wednesday through Saturday are the best days to go for fresh produce.

Happenings on the Farm:

Everything in the greenhouse is really growing with these wonderful sunny days. In fact, we’ve had to bring flats outside during the days to try to slow down the growth, but no complaining from us about sunny days. The first fruit/blossom set on the tomatoes is complete and we have little tomatoes already!  So this puts that first BLT about 55 days away. And who needs an Easter lily when you can look at all of the beautiful blooms?  Especially when you know each one will make a tomato.

If you’d like to know more about what happens at blossom time in the greenhouse, watch this quick video to see how we pollinate them.  http://www.coreylakeorchards.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/tompollin.mov

So, we remain busy preparing for this year’s season and can’t wait to see our customers soon.   Everyone at Corey Lake Orchards thanks you for buying local!

Marching On….

We remain closed for the winter season, but are always happy to meet you by appointment (just call us at 269-244-5690) if you need any of the following:

  • Baked goods: frozen take and bake pies
  • Alcohol products: hard ciders, brandy, or wine
  • Other: honey, maple syrup and meat
  • Animal apples: bring containers
  • Vegetables: certified organic spinach, carrots, kale, lettuce, scallions, garlic available all winter long (grown in our sun-heated hoophouse)

As of now we have organic produce for sale at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and our refrigerator is in the back of the store – we tend to re-fill it on Tuesday nights so Wednesday through Saturday are the best days to go for fresh produce.

Happenings on the Farm: The pace is picking up here, probably most noted by our UPS worker with frequent deliveries of seeds, planting materials, containers, and other items. One of the more interesting packages that got delivered was a box of certified organic ginger from Hawaii, which is now curing for future ginger production here.

Below, you can see that Becca has cut the ginger “hands” into “fingers” to sprout indoors now and eventually plant outside in the hoophouse. Because the crop won’t reach full maturity in Michigan, we should have some baby ginger in autumn that has very thin skin and tender flesh, and a beautiful soft pink/gold coloring. We’ll see!

 

Signs that spring is coming are everywhere with the time change, birds returning and crocus’s up, we’re grateful winter is hanging on for a bit, keeping  our orchards and vineyards in dormancy until true spring arrives.

The tomato plants are thriving in the greenhouse, many more flats of seeds have been planted and the famous lettuce bowls are now seeded to be ready by May. There’s no better place to be on these sunny days of late then working in short sleeves inside the greenhouse, the hoophouse, or the new caterpillar house you may have noticed that Becca has built by the old schoolhouse. This mini-tunnel will grow protected organic heirloom tomatoes and basil, both of which are extremely sensitive to rainwater on their leaves and thrive with a little protection. It’s an experiment for this year, but we hope it turns out (and doesn’t blow away).

 

Emma Grace helping to plant more tomatoes

 

The Sungold tomatoes are up!

The  season’s planning meetings have started, where we look at data and records from last year.  Our goal is quite simple: repeat and try to do even better with products our customers loved, and of course, work hard on fixing or stopping what we didn’t do so well!

Becca is now logging more hours in the cidery and after yesterday’s trip to Maple Row Sugar House in Jones to get Maple Syrup, we can count on Brunch Cider coming back which was a hit last year. We also sell their maple syrup here at the market. Many of the orchard team attended their maple syrup festival over the last two weekends and had a great experience.

Education, both formal and informal, is a big part of the winter timeframe. We have to be on top of what new varieties on are on the market,  what new tools could help us be more effective, and track all of the food safety law changes, pesticide application changes, and other regulations.

One of this week’s formal learning was a one-day Michigan peach growers’ meeting. With peaches being such a difficult crop to grow in Michigan’s varying climate, hanging out with 70 other farmers who have similar worries was a pleasant experience. Some peach trends that caused lots of conversation was the significant decline in peach acreage in Michigan (customers are just not buying in large quantities and canning like they used to), the difficulty in getting new peach tree nursery stock (need to order 3 years in advance!), and how the introduction of the stony hard peach varieties was being accepted in the marketplace. These are peaches that remain firm and even crunchy when ripe, earning the name “neat” peach since you don’t get the “juice dripping down your chin” effect….a change for sure.

So, we remain busy preparing for this year’s season and can’t wait to see our customers return.   Everyone at Corey Lake Orchards thanks you for buying local!

The joy of running thru the greenhouse when the work is finished!

 

 

 

 

Another Month Gone….Will March Come In Like A Lion?

We remain closed for the winter season,  but are always happy to meet you by appointment (just call us on 269-244-5690) if you need any of the following:

  • Baked goods: frozen take and bake pies
  • Alcohol products: hard ciders, brandy, or wine
  • Other: honey, maple syrup and meat
  • Animal Apples: bring containers
  • Vegetables: certified organic spinach, carrots, kale, lettuce, scallions, garlic available all winter long (grown in our sun-heated hoophouse)

As of now we have organic produce for sale at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and our refrigerator is in the back of the store – we tend to re-fill it on Tuesday nights so Wednesday through Saturday are the best days to go for fresh produce.

We are happy to report that the tomato plants have been planted in the greenhouse, which puts us at about 75 days for that first BLT of the year!

Tomato plants growing, trellis strung, Becca’s organic flats seeded

For those of you who would like to read about Beth’s trip to California–read away! And for those who have enough of your own California memories—here’s wishing you all the best from us at Corey Lake Orchards!

Not sure how it is that I have lived this many years and not visited California, the most agriculturally diverse state in the US, ahead of Michigan who is second. Yes, I actually left the farm for twelve days in February and lucky me, all twelve days of the trip were picture perfect, sunny and short sleeve weather.

I attended the annual “Farmers inspired” agritourism convention, held in Los Angeles this year, joining up with 300 farmers with operations like ours for three days of bus tours, followed by two days of workshops. Gracious farm hosts opened up their farms, their kitchens, their maintenance shops, their markets and U-Pick operations….you name it, let us talk to their staff, all in the spirit of sharing and learning. Probably some of the best learnings took place in our lively discussions on the bus rides, where we were together a lot, thanks to Los Angeles traffic. These were my people!

The annual worst traffic congestion survey was released while we were there, with Los Angeles winning again. Of note was San Francisco which came in third, where we were headed next! But if you have to be stuck in traffic, you might as well be on a bus with your peers. There was no “quiet time” as we took on solving the problems of the world, especially those on farms.

It was pretty fun to visit farms, especially someone else’s! Here were some takeaways:

  • One farm was open and picking 360 days of the year (thank goodness for our winter downtime)
  • Another farm attended 30 farmers markets weekly—they really have the packing and unpacking down to a science and I took a copy of their checklist!
  • Citrus was in season and plentiful. I did what customers at our farm do when eating a freshly picked peach, let the juice drip all over me and become speechless when the flavor bursts in my mouth
  • Saw how they use festivals as major draws to their farm—with one farm peaking out at a 2700 car parking limit (no thank you!)
  • Loved seeing their creativity in creating play areas for all ages (my favorite was recycling cardboard by putting it out to sit on and slide down a grassy knoll)

    California grown strawberries eaten fresh are pretty amazing!

  • Mother Nature is always in charge—as lack of rain plagued these farms, how I wish we could send this week’s excess water in Michigan to them
  • Wow—Hollywood knows how to do a farmer’s market which is just blocks away from the star-studded celebrity walk.  Since it was Superbowl Sunday, we loaded up with fresh citrus, strawberries, red raspberries, avocados, snap peas, goat cheese, macadamia nuts, dried tomato basil bread and a small boysenberry pie, creating quite a smorgasbord back at our hotel room. We declared these the best super bowl snacks ever and I loved that the game started at 3:30 so I could stay awake for all of it!

    At one stop the university folks set up citrus educational and sampling displays–loved this idea!

    Super bowl Snacks!

    Where to next?

    Do we need these at our farm?

    Beautiful displays of vegetables at their farm market

    What you do when you can’t go snow sledding..

    Using clippers and cotton gloves were a must for picking oranges on this farm

    We purposely detoured to see a Pacific sunset waiting for LA traffic to clear

    We spent the night at the Paso Robles Inn and admired their chef’s gardens.

After five days of rigid conference scheduling, my husband and I were thankful for our “have no plans” two-day drive north to San Francisco. We had to take some detours as sections of the highways were still closed due to the recent tragic wild fires. One of the best stops, with a reservation made 30 minutes beforehand was at the John Steinbeck house. Eighty years ago this April, John wrote his classic “The Grapes of Wrath” from here. The house has been beautifully restored to a lovely restaurant, all staffed by volunteers who happily provided a tour and riveting stories about the Steinbeck Family. As we drove along the dust-blown roads after lunch passing farm after farm, caravan after caravan of workers harvesting crops, it was easy to see how this California landscape provided fodder for his work.

John Steinbeck House

We arrived at the gorgeous Stanford campus, where son Chad goes to school. He became our tour guide for the next three days, showing us his favorite spots in San Francisco.

Joe, Chad and Beth in front of the Stanford Graduate School of Business

He had made reservations over a month ago at one of the many farm to table restaurants, which capped off our day in the city. One of the dishes we had was “stinging nettle & ricotta ravioli, black trumpets & apple cider ‘saba.’” We have our share of stinging nettle here on the farm which we  consider to be a very nasty weed especially if you touch it. Was I the only person who didn’t know that the sting part goes away when cooked and it tastes like delicious nutty spinach?

Warm scrumptious donuts were shared for dessert

After dinner, we headed to Sonoma Valley, where we rented a farm house on an olive farm. Here the only traffic problems were chickens wandering around and playful new-born lambs running into each other. The mountain views from the farmhouse windows and the quiet was exactly what I wanted for my final few days away from my own farm.

So fun to watch!

Loved finding this upon arrival!

Sonoma Valley was non-stop grape vineyards. I have never seen so many and each with their own winery, tasting room, and unique road sign encouraging you to stop. We stopped at as many as we could fit in, where one of my goals was to see how they designed their tasting rooms and of course indulge in farm to glass!

In wine grape vineyards.

Yes I am sharing!

I returned to the farm to find deep piles of snow along with the piles of winter work waiting for me just as I left them. I remain inspired by what I saw and can’t wait to implement a few new ideas here at the farm in 2018. So stay tuned!

 

 

“C” What We Do In Winter

While we are closed for the winter season,  we are always happy to meet you by appointment (just call us on 269-244-5690) if you need any of the following:

  • Baked goods: frozen take and bake pies
  • Alcohol products: hard ciders, brandy, or wine
  • Other: honey, maple syrup and meat
  • Animal Apples: $5 a bushel, bring containers
  • Vegetables: certified organic spinach, carrots, kale, lettuce, scallions, garlic available all winter long (grown in our sun-heated hoophouse).

As of now we have organic produce for sale at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and our refrigerator is in the back of the store – we tend to re-fill it on Tuesday nights so Wednesday through Saturday are the best days to go for fresh produce.

So often folks ask us what we do at the farm during the winter when we are closed, wondering if we go south and soak in the sun on beaches or the like, so thought we would allow you to “C” what goes on during the winter months of a farm.

Cut/Clip: Our largest outdoor winter job is pruning grapes, so when workers are in the vineyard, you can hear the snip/snip/snip as they cut and clip out the old vines, leaving the best vines for this coming year. Hearing the clippers going in the quiet of the vineyard is such a reassuring sound, knowing that with each vine falling to the ground we are getting closer to getting this huge task done.

Compute/Calculate/Count: The record keeping on a farm this diverse is extensive. During the daily hustle of our farm in season, a spiral bound notebook and pen (if we can find one!) is our chosen tool. Everything we pick, sell and process gets recorded, with notebooks in the bakery, the distillery room, and the market. It’s easy to identify the notebooks by the flour, dirt or drops of alcohol smudged on the pages! In the winter, much of this information goes into spreadsheets for reports that we have to do for many constituents but most important, ourselves! This data helps us figure out what/how much/when and where we are planting for this coming year—hoping to get those succession plantings just right so we never run out of lettuce. When I recently finished a required 50 page report where every bushel of corn, quart of strawberries, and pound of grapes produced for the year had to be counted—I could almost feel myself lifting each bushel of corn again.

Comply:

  • Licenses: There are 10+ licenses and certifications which must be maintained for our farm. Some require a test or on-going educational credits, some just need application forms and fees processed, and all require follow ups to track them down, endure stories of “we have new software but it is in the system.”. Their systems of cashing our check for the required fees never seems to fail.
  • 5 year census—this year there is the bonus activity for all farmers of filling out the census, required by law every 5 years. This year’s form is a mere 24 pages of small print, and allowing us to use extra paper for our answers! We are hours into filling this out, speechless at the detail required, and truly wondering if someone knowing how many trucks we have and the horsepower of our tractors will aid in solving the large issues challenging the agriculture industry. We hope it does.

Check: There is a long path we walk to check on all of the farm’s buildings, especially those with water or where equipment like coolers and freezers run. We don’t like the surprises that can occur if we don’t, like a frozen water pipe or a visit from a wild animal seeking shelter! Equally important are walks through the fields, orchards and vineyards, checking to see if natural predators have curbed mice and vole damage and which trees are on the deer’s menu this winter.

Cook/Create/Consume: We often lament the lack of time we have to cook when our farm’s produce is in season. In the winter months, new recipes are tried, especially those which can use the greens coming out of the hoophouse. Becca and Beth have been trading paleo/gluten-free/dairy-free/heirloom vegetable cookbooks and Michaela has been coaching Beth on using her new Instant Pot pressure cooker.   This time of year finds many Becca notebook-scribbles creatively conjuring up different ingredients to try in hard ciders. We can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Consider/Contemplate: This time of year has us asking the “what if” and “should we” questions out loud. What if we washed our greens before packaging them? Should we try to grow bunching onions and swiss chard again and will enough customers want it? How can we use excess spinach and carrots in the bakery?

Care/Cultivate: Becca now devotes weekly hours to caring for the crops growing in the hoophouse, much more enjoyable (and warm!) on the sunny days. We are sorting through reams of soil sample data as we determine the health of our soil and how best to care for it. We continue with community caring, apples going to food banks weekly, volunteering time on the local boards we are on, participating in the MLK walk, throwing together some farmer-to-farmer gatherings, and more. We’ll be at A Chocolate Affair in downtown Three Rivers on February 10th and warmly invite you to come as well.

Curl Up: And with no official starting time at the farm, on some of these bitterly cold days, staying curled up under a blanket still in bed or in front of the fireplace, is a nice choice to have!

And before we know it, spring will be here, the farm will wake up and we’ll be “C-ing” our customer again!  Hope you are having a wonderful winter, from all of us at Corey Lake Orchards.