Saline's Vestergaard Farms Supplying Rising Demand for Locally-Sourced Food
There is a piece of pastoral paradise right at home in the Saline area.
And in a time when large factory farms and controversies over sustainable or ethical production often dominate the food landscape, it's a welcome sight.
Approximately 14 years ago, Mike Vestergaard had a vision of starting an open farm where he could grow, cultivate, and sell his own produce and products to his neighbors. While it took over a decade to arrive at its current form, the wait and work were well worth it for Mike, his family, and the surrounding community.
It's not often that you hear about success due in part to the recent global pandemic. The storefront section of Vestergaard opened in December of 2019. They had less than two months before the early pandemic shutdowns and inconveniences started. But those large-scale shutdowns, staffing, and supply chain issues that have been a plague for most businesses in the past two years were largely irrelevant for Vestergaard Farms.
It turns out, when you harvest your own produce and meat, your supply chain can't get held up in the Gulf of Mexico or sitting off-shore somewhere in the Pacific. Instead, it's a quick walk from garden to shelf or from sealing room to cooler! In fact, according to Mike, of the dozens of items available, everything in the store is produced locally except for two products. The Salmon is flown in from Alaska and the Olives for the Olive Oil are brought in from Greece. But even those two outliers have local family connections and are prepared and packaged nearby before hitting the Vestergaard shelves.
Mike and his family pride themselves on creating the best products they can by providing a natural habitat for their animals to grow in. The cattle, pigs, and chicken are "Pasture Raised" and have free range access to the pasture. The Farm has a large swath of land, approximately 100 acres, at their disposal. Much of that land is dedicated to allowing the animals to graze on grass and other naturally occurring plants and in winter they eat dried grasses harvested from the farm land. The pigs and chicken have their diet supplemented with some Non-GMO grain as well.
In a conversation with Mike, the amount of care and knowledge about his craft becomes very evident. His passion extends to making sure his carbon footprint is minimal, that his animals and land are well cared for, and that his practices are sustainable. The food he produces feeds his own family as well which is likely the best guarantee of quality anyone could ask for.
Mike's second passion concerns educating his surrounding communities. Due in part to his success during COVID, he has plans in motion to expand to a second 100 acre lot where, in addition to his own pasture needs, he would like to offer classes, guidance, and land management to people from the surrounding areas. According to Mike, there is likely a collaboration with the Michigan State College of Agriculture in the works as well.
All of the excitement and passion for farming was clear on Mike's face when speaking with him. But on a personal note, perhaps the most telling was his sincere offer to show me and my family around. "I could keep you busy for a couple hours," he said with a chuckle. Watching my daughter and wife feed foliage to happy and surprisingly friendly alpacas, goats and cows was a very compelling argument for local pasture farming. But don't take my word for it. Go see for yourself.
Photos by Matt Jensen
01 Vestergaard Farms, near Saline, provides locally-sourced meats and foods to meet the growing demand for such products.
02 Animals are raised in pastures in the open air and sunlight.
03 It’s a family affair at Vestergaard. The Vestergaard family runs the farm and they work to make it inviting to the entire family, passing on the values of ethical farming to the next generation.
04 Vestergaard Market features farm-raised meats and other local foods including baked goods, preserves, and more.
05 The mother and her piglets are kept inside until old enough to venture on their own around the pastures.