Farm Feature: Stillwind

Farm Feature: Stillwind

Meet Mik! The co-owner and founder of Stillwind Farm in Belding. If you're a Grand Rapids local, you've likely seen their beautiful face at the Fulton Street Farmers Market. We were inspired to highlight Mik during peak harvest season because slow fashion and slow food go hand in hand. Their farm is abundant and full of life in July, with plants and beneficial insects as far as the eye can see. We are so excited to share it with you.

 

Tell us a little bit about your story and introduce us to your life - how did you get where you are today?

"My name is Mik (she/they). I am a co-owner of Stillwind Farm, a 1 acre, Certified Naturally Grown farm in Belding that specializes in diverse vegetable production year-round. Stillwind hosts a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program & vends at the Fulton St Farmers Market on Fridays & Saturdays.

On a personal note, I am a first generation, queer farmer. I have been working within the agriculture industry for eight seasons now; a period of time that has shaped my understanding of growing produce organically, the intersections of food systems & politics, & the vastness of community. I evolve with the lessons that the crops, weeds, soil, forest edges, & passerby animals share with me. I evolve with the pain that my aging, recovering body expresses. With the creative energy that I feel lucky to obtain within me.

I now see my old pal, Tree, as a guiding angel for having recommended I spend a summer farming at a small farm called Eighth Day. Incredible to note the paths opened & altered while in the presence of a caring friendship. So I spent my summer in the parking lot of Dutch Village, soaking in the newness. Learning lessons of manual labor, production basics, & the depth of soil’s soul. Since, I have focused my energy farming within West Michigan, which has allowed for experience in Organic production, non-profit farm management, urban growing, compost processing, & business planning.

2021 Stillwind came to life, with the farm’s initial space being a gift to me from a local farmer. On an ⅛ acre, urban plot in Muskegon Heights a bounty was planted, cared for, & shared. The community was called on & alongside other urban growers we shared a greenhouse, wash space, cooler trailer, tools. A beautiful effort to create the infrastructure necessary to operate. Our first season closed with a move to Belding, a long-term, sustainable home for Stillwind. We are now in our fourth season; the field that we cultivate today is a bit over ½ acre, surrounded by forest & a small wetland tucked behind foliage. Additionally, we lease ½ acre from an organic orchard, Black Fox Farm, about a mile away from us. This season Kade, Michelle, & Alex have joined the crew. Brian, Stillwind’s Co-Owner, is now here full-time after seasons of balancing off-farm work.

Stillwind is the manifestation of many hands, minds, ideas. Of many long evenings with mosquitos in the wash/pack, tears over crop loss, laughter with the budding flowers, & meals together. Stillwind has changed me & the ones I love. The big dreams continue & continue…"
What does a typical day look like for you?

"Each day is guided by the needs of the farm & the passing seasons. In July the workdays are in stride with the rising & falling sun; we balance a hefty load & an endless list of tasks. With the solstice behind us we know to prioritize fall harvests, so we seed storage carrots & plant successions of cabbage, kale, swiss chard, broccolini, radicchio, celery. The garlic planted last November is harvested & now curing slowly in the shade. The onions will be putting energy into their bulb growth, but currently they are being shaded out by weeds. So we’ll have a ~ save the alliums with a big weeding session ~ very soon. All this in hopes that the bounty will continue filling supper tables through months of snowfall.
We also know to prioritize the summer crops that have begun to flower & fruit. The tomatoes reach towards the sun, surpassing my head as the green globes ripen to shades of yellow, orange, & red. All the pests love eggplant, yet they are resilient & now covered in lavender blooms. The cucumbers climb their host trellis with ease & hydrate us throughout the day; there is no comparison to a warm cucumber sunny day snack. The melons are taking form, growing larger by the day. The field of peppers has caught my attention lately because their leaves are hosting a bacterial disease that, if not tended to, could spread widely. With the high humidity & drastic weather patterns this season, we have noticed high rates of disease & pest pressure in the field.

So with this all in mind, we begin a July day. Let’s say it is a Tuesday……

~ A dawn beginning. If it is an especially hot week, we start at 6:30.
~ Breakfast, coffee, a check-in about the week’s priorities. I do this alongside the other farmers here, Brian, Kade & Michelle. On Tuesdays we try to do this assessment by taking a full field walk. This allows us to appreciate the growth, note the beauty of each other’s projects, channel curiosities, assess the tasks ahead of us…..
What disease or pest pressure can be tended to? Where do we need to take preventative measures? What beds need to be planted this week? What needs to be direct seeded & what needs to be weeded? What does the greenhouse seeding schedule look like for the week? What will be harvested for Friday & Saturday market vs CSA shares? What infrastructure projects will Brian or Kade balance throughout the week? Do we need to spend any time at our storage crop field (our leased second location nearby)?
~ Until about 11 am I fill whatever role makes sense. Sometimes this means I write the weekly CSA newsletter, work alongside the crew to prep, plant, seed, weed, or I prepare routes for future tasks to be completed. There are many small ways that I am able to offer myself & my knowledge in hopes of easing the workday.
~ Late in the morning I prepare a group lunch. Cooking for others is my greatest joy & I feel so lucky to share the bounty of the season in this way.
~ After lunch I harvest & wash Tuesday’s CSA shares, a small group for the folks that pick up their produce on the farm. If I am able to complete this prior to Kade & Michelle heading out for the day, I will often hop in on whatever they may be working on.
~ During Tuesday CSA pickup Brian & I can often be found in the field weeding, catching up on pruning or trellising, or occasionally finishing up a greenhouse seeding list.
~ Family dinner with our good friends & housemates, Alex & Ness. We sit as the sun falls.
The moon rises, the sun will rise all too soon. Wednesday’s tasks will be much different than Tuesday’s. For this, we are always grateful."
Tell us about what inspires you—either personally or at work.

"From seed to harvest there are infinite sparks of joy, moments to learn. Inspiration! It is incredibly humbling to come across dewdrops at dawn that have patterned a leaf, aborted tomato flowers during a heat wave, a spider weaving between the trellising. I find inspiration in a meal shared with loved ones, listening to the birds at dawn, the genius of those who write books, a walk through the nearby pasture, the powerful patterns of a wave, the consistency of trees.

Inspiration intersects with my relationship to meaning, care, & responsibility. With this frame of mind, I hope to feel infinitely inspired."
What’s your absolute favorite thing to grow, and why?

"My favorite crops are the patient, long season crops or the crops that have taken special attention for me to understand well like…… tomatoes, garlic, watermelon, carrots, beets. While it is impossible for me to choose one, I can share about the rewarding relationship I have with tomatoes.

To care for tomatoes is so emotional. They need specific nutrients & watering schedules, they are communicative, susceptible to disease, prolific growers. Tomato seeds meet soil & heat mats in March, germinating slowly compared to some other crops. We are together daily as spring arrives, as planting season & solstice pass us by. In July they surpass my height & begin to share their sweet, savory fruit. We know each other well at this point & they offer me hours of meditation while pruning suckers. The tomato preserves feed us all winter; their generosity is felt.

Disease & hornworms are inevitable, so I prepare by coating their strong stalks in copper & check for worms at nightfall with a UV flashlight. This care work brings me meaning."
Let’s talk about reciprocity, how does that influence your work at Stillwind both with your community and the earth?
"I believe that because I am a person on this Earth I have inherent responsibilities. I take seriously the vastness of human consciousness, the privileges of “land ownership”, food security, community networks, my white skin. The black walnut tree that drapes my home is nearly as old, or older even, than the township. The tributaries, winding streams, and surrounding lakes are polluted with industry, entitlement, profit & greed. Dead bees scatter along the dirt road on days the corn field nearby is sprayed with weed killer. The ditch along the dirt road gathers runoff that is guided to the neighboring lake. A lake that is fed with two natural springs. That is now sprayed annually for algal blooms.

Does this not tell stories of the ongoing violence & theft from the Grand River Band of Ottawa? Of all the systems that neglect to look towards future generations?

So, I do not believe that there is not a route under our current capitalist system that will feel entirely honorable, fair, or sustainable. Despite this, resistance to exploitation & extraction feels to be a worthwhile venture. For me & for Stillwind this requires practices of gratitude, sacrifice, re-learning, & humility.

“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer. Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need. Take only that which is given. Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share. Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants"
What an honor it was to spend a hot July evening with Mik, give Stillwind a follow to keep up with their current happenings and events or opt into their CSA program for fresh local produce!
Garments Pictured:

← Older Post

Leave a comment

Read More

Farm Feature: Stillwind

Farm Feature: Stillwind

Meet Mik! The co-owner and founder of Stillwind Farm in Belding. If you're a Grand Rapids local, you've likely seen their beautiful face at the...

Read more
MAKER FEATURE: DREAMGOATS

MAKER FEATURE: DREAMGOATS

Meet Leah, the founder and owner of Dreamgoats. If you're local to the area, you know Dreamgoats is the best spot for handmade soap and...

Read more
Small Business Feature: Scorpion Hearts Club

Small Business Feature: Scorpion Hearts Club

Meet Lori Slager Wenzel! The lovely human behind Scorpion Hearts Club.  If you're a West Michigan local, you're probably familiar with her space. It's a...

Read more
How to Give Sustainable Holiday Gifts (And Avoid this #1 Mistake!)

How to Give Sustainable Holiday Gifts (And Avoid this #1 Mistake!)

It’s that time of year! Buzzfeed and eco-journalists are writing articles sharing their Top 30 Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts or Best Sustainable Fashion Brands 2023. While...

Read more
A Sustainable Wardrobe Starts With Classic Design

A Sustainable Wardrobe Starts With Classic Design

It’s almost 2024 and more and more people are looking to build a sustainable wardrobe, woo-hoo! Conscious Clothing has valued classic + timeless design since...

Read more
Teacher Feature: Elice Davey

Teacher Feature: Elice Davey

A SENTIMENT FROM DOUG: With the end of summer comes one glorious day for many. This is the daywhen their kids go back to school....

Read more