While supply chain issues have touched nearly every industry across the globe, we’ve had a deliciously creative solution for years: buying from local farmers. We’re featuring one of our partner farms, Crisp Country Acres. They supply our West Michigan accounts with fresh produce harvested straight from the earth within days of us receiving it.
We sat down with Lindsey Visser, a member of the Visser family who owns and operates the farm. Though she humbly refers to herself as “just a farmer’s wife,” Lindsey helps manage the greenhouse, makes harvest lists, heads up their restaurant sales, manages their social media, and participates at farmers markets, all while taking care of their two kids! Here’s what she had to say about their farm and what it’s like to work with Creative Dining Services®.
As Local As It Gets
According to Lindsey, farming and agriculture have been her husband’s family’s industry of choice for as long as anyone can remember. The farm is still owned by the family and operates out of Holland, MI.
A Focus on Connection
Their mission is to reconnect diners with farmers and show people what “high quality, good tasting food” really means. Lindsey said her favorite thing about the farm is going to farmers markets. “I really enjoy seeing people, especially kids, getting excited about vegetables.”
This desire for interpersonal connection carries over to her interactions with our chefs. “I love the connection with people. Having chefs get excited about the fresh food. I love the community aspect because everybody needs to eat.” She loves that their farm gets to play a role in meals, which are times that bring people together.
The Importance of Locally-grown Food
Lindsey told us a story about bringing home-grown carrots as a snack for one of her kids’ classes. “The kids absolutely went nuts over them!” She recalled how much better the kids said the carrots tasted, and the whole group couldn’t get enough.
Lindsey also noted one of the surprising benefits of local produce: it lasts longer. “Our produce is harvested within two days of when it’s available for purchase, so it has a greater shelf life than the produce you might find at the grocery store. Depending on where it comes from, it [store-bought produce] might’ve taken two days just to ship it to the store!”
She brought up an increasingly-popular concept that used to be standard: eating with the seasons. “With the pandemic and all the food shortages, it really showed us how fragile our food system is. It’s important to know that we do have food grown locally, and it’s available to us.”
What could eating with the seasons look like? If you’re a fan of strawberries, June and August are the best times to buy. Cherries ripen in mid-to-late July, and asparagus is at its best near the end of spring. While blueberry compote on toast may seem delightful mid-winter, Lindsey says it’s best to harvest berries in the summer and freeze them for use later in the year.
Boosting Local Economies
One of the greatest reasons to support local producers is that the money continues circulating in the local economy. Crisp Country Acres in particular strives to provide steady employment for their workforce, which is uncommon in agriculture.
“My husband and I remember how nerve-wracking it could be for him to find in-between jobs when we weren’t in the growing season,” she said. “We wanted to make year-round employment possible for as many people as we could.”
Lindsey estimates they usually have around 40 employees each summer, and they retain about 20 of those employees throughout the winter months.
How to Support Crisp Country Acres
If you’re in West Michigan, Crisp Country Acres is easy to find! While they’re regularly at local farmers markets, they also own and operate a store on the northside of Holland, MI. Collaborating with local producers, they also offer local meats, bread, dairy products, and more.
Crisp Country Acres also participates in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. According to the Michigan Fitness Foundation, “In a typical CSA model, members make a financial investment and buy a “share” of the farm’s production before each growing season. In return, they receive regular distributions of the farm’s bounty throughout the season.”
Crisp Country Acres sends out a weekly or bi-weekly box of produce to program participants, depending on their preference. “It’s really cool! People get to pick what they want in their box, and our system has them rate the produce we grow by how much or little they like it. Then they can customize their box further if they want to.”
The CSA program is a great way to ensure households always have the produce they like, and that they get freshly-grown food each week. Plus, it supports a local business!
How Our Chefs Shop Local
The best part is that buying from local farms, like Crisp Country Acres, is easy as pie. “The Creative Dining chefs at each location order using our online order form. We work closely with the chefs to make sure they get what they need!” Our chefs get access to great local foods they might not have thought to use before, which can lead to some incredible innovations.
By purchasing locally, our chefs also get access to those seasonally-grown foods Lindsey mentioned. They get the freshest strawberries in the summer and the ripest pumpkins in the fall. The farm uses greenhouses to help them extend the growing season even further.
For more information on supporting local farms, CSAs and more near you, check out LocalHarvest.org.