Jon and Karlene Goetz
Located within an hour of Ypsilanti, the Goetz farm is in Riga, Michigan, in the southeast corner of Michigan. It is late May here in growing zone 6, and they have already been selling lettuces, beets, and spinach since January. The average high temperature in January for our zone is 32 degrees, with lows often below zero;they are able to beat the climate with Hoop Houses. Jon Goetz worked with Michigan State University and the fabricator to develop a green house that worked optimally even when the temperatures turned frigid. 40 degrees is the average even when it is zero outside.
The Hoop Houses are planted in December and will be able to continue harvesting the greens through March. Tomatoes, basil, zucchini, yellow squash, cilantro, kale, and turnip and mustard greens are interplanted with the lettuce and are available later into April. Once all of the crops have been harvested, they are cleaned out and allowed to lay fallow throughout the summer. Our average temperatures for July and August are in the eighties, so too hot for growing inside the hoop houses. In August and September the above crops are again planted to be harvested in November and December. The short days make it impossible to continue to grow through all the way through, but with the rotation above there is produce available most of the year. Some of the vegetables they grow are peas, lettuce, tomatoes, beets, leaks, arugula, potatoes, corn, melons, peppers, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, greens, squash, and onions. In the fall they have pie pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, fall decorations like gourds, Indian corn and cornstalks.
During the summer, their 265 acres are used to grow just about every imaginable vegetable. They have apple trees for their own use, but they are not sold commercially. The fields are usually tilled in the spring with their three Clydesdale horses, along with the help of the four sons. The horses are especially advantageous with the price of gas so high.
They are supplying a variety of users around the Detroit area: food services at Eastern Michigan University and Michigan State University, Henry Ford Museum, and The Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, and both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Food Co-ops.
Jon has been “farming” for more than 50 years, and comes from a family of farmers. He is a descendant of one of four brothers who made their way from Latvia in 1840 on a ship full of sheep. After 46 days crossing the Atlantic, the brothers paid for their voyage through servitude in New York. After two years they were free to go, and traveled along the Erie Canal to Grand Rapids, Ohio, just west of Toledo. The brothers had married four sisters and decided to go their separate directions, with Jon’s great great grandfather staying in this area.
Jon and Karlene have made farming their lifelong careers, and while their four grown sons still help out on the farm, they have other day time jobs. Hopefully some of them will decide to carry on the tradition. While not growing organically, they are using as natural methods as possible. One of the biggest problems they have faced recently is the drift from neighboring farms who are using chemical herbicide sprays on their fields.
With the fading of the growing season they continue with greenery from Balsam Fir, Frasier Fir, Concolor Fir, Noble Fir, Evergreens, Cedar, White Pine, Blueberry Juniper, and Boxwood. Wreaths for the holidays are decorated with pinecones, bows, ornaments, berries, rose hips, and ribbons.