During the first year of the in 2004, Dave and Marlene Turk of Turk Farms shared a booth with their neighbors and fellow farmers Eric and Patty Roeske of Roeske Farms.
Because the booth didn't yield enough profit for two farms, the Turks and Roeskes decided to split up. The Roeskes remained in Hartland, while the Turks established a home base at the Brighton Farmers' Market.
Last Saturday, however, the Turks returned to the Hartland Farmer's Market, where they will operate a booth for the remainder of the season.
“We heard there was a demand for fruit at the market, so we're back,” Marlene Turk said last Saturday as she offered a farm fresh blueberry to a small child. After his first mouthful, the boy, too young to speak, pointed at a pint indicating he wanted more. Marlene obliged, cooing at the boy as if he were her own.
Child back farm idea
was actually founded on the whims and desires of the Turks four children. During a family outing at the Hillsdale County Fair, the Turk children refused to leave the animals.
“I told my wife right then, 'We need to move. This is something I can share with the kids,'” Dave Turk said, and the family soon found themselves living on a 10-acre farm in Hartland.
The Turks didn't begin their farming operation blindly. Dave grew up across the apple orchard from his grandparents' farm in a small farming community in Ohio. Everyone he knew growing up grew something, so he knew a thing or two about farming.
Soon after moving to the farm in the mid-1990s, the family got involved in 4-H and slowly began to establish Turk Farms. After working as a manager for Carter Lumber in Whitmore Lake for several years, Dave was happy to get back to his roots.
The Turks began attending the Great Lakes Fruit,Vegetable and Farm Market Expo, which takes place every December in Grand Rapids.
“That's where the planning begins,” Dave said. “It's all about sharing ideas.”
As soon as the operation was successful enough to support the family, Dave resigned from his job at Carter Lumber to focus on the farm full time. The Turks now attend four or five Livingston County farmers markets each week, and many of their products are available year-round at the farm.
Free-range products a focus
Their kids now have kids of their own, so, except for some hired seasonal help, the Dave and Marlene do most of the work themselves.
Dave focuses on raising chickens, pigs, lambs, goats, ducks, and rabbits. All of the animals are free-range and raised without antibiotics or hormones. At $2.99 per pound, whole chickens, which can be purchased fresh or frozen, are Turk Farms most popular product.
The farm also yields several varieties of fruits and vegetables. In the coming weeks, the Turks will harvest ornamental pumpkins, eggplant, and cabbage. What the Turks don't grow themselves, they outsource from farms throughout Michigan.
Dave said his favorite product is any new and unique variety of produce.
“I like to bring products people haven't seen to the market. It's the whole concept of letting people know that other things are available. What you see at the big supermarkets isn't all there is,” Dave said.
This year, the Turks featured yellow plums and Michigan nectarines at various markets in the area.
Turk Farms blueberries, which go for $5 per quart, and peaches, which go for $4 a quart, are always a big hit at the market, Dave said.
The Turks are always adding new products. This year, they added Michigan-based Thomas Organic Creamery's ice cream and whole-milk yogurt to their list.
Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles on vendors at the Hartland Farmer's Market. The market — which is in the parking lot of the Hartland Educational Support Service Center, 9525 Highland Rd — is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October.
Here are links to the others: