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Berkley

August 14, 2013

Berkley Farm Stand back in business, but only three days a week

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Carol Bates, a manager of the Berkley Farm Stand, helps patrons last year in the stand’s inaugural season. This year, the stand is open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but a new herb garden was added at the request of several customers.

BERKLEY — When the Berkley Farm Stand opened last September on 12 Mile Road, Laura Uhlianuk and her husband, Lee, had the market operating seven days a week. When Mondays would come around, however, the North

Branch farmers didn’t have any produce left to sell after busy weekends.
Laura Uhlianuk, a Berkley native, said that when the stand opened this year at the end of July, they decided to keep the hours of operation to Friday, Saturday and Sunday to keep the stand freshly stocked all the time.

“Last year, we got gung-ho and opened seven days a week, and we wanted to have all the benefits to the shoppers, but some Mondays, we had to close because we didn’t have anything to sell,” Uhlianuk said. “We realized we had to strike a balance between time at the stand and time at the farm. Our goal is to sell everything, but sometimes we wouldn’t get home until 8, and then we had to pick and load the trucks.

“We knew we had to make a more realistic and sustainable schedule for this year.”

Uhlianuk and her family have a long history in Berkley, with her grandparents moving to the city nearly 70 years ago. But after marrying Lee in 2002, the two moved out to his 100-acre farm in North Branch, eventually raising three kids there.

Uhlianuk said the goal was to open the stand in May this year, but weather didn’t allow for it and produce has been hit or miss all season, with the ever-changing weather. While they are there to make money, she said they don’t want to sell produce that isn’t great.

“Mother Nature is still reigning supreme and it feels like October, so things are not ripening as quickly,” Uhlianuk said. “It has been an educational process for our customers because they can go to Eastern Market in Detroit and get things from all over the world, but a lot of them want true Michigan produce, and things like melons are not as sweet as they should be here.”

And Michigan-raised produce is what the Berkley Farm Stand strives to provide to customers, Uhlianuk said. Outside of the Uhlianuk farm, produce for the stand comes from several farms in the neighboring area.

“The last five years, there has been a huge movement to buy local and support local, and everybody has watched the Michigan economy struggle and now starting to bounce back,” Uhlianuk said. “Our seasons are very dependent on the weather and that can affect the flavor of tomatoes from week to week. It is exciting when we can bring Michigan blueberries and watermelons, when we can find farmers that have them, but we don’t want to sell a $3 or $4 melon that people will not be happy with.”

Carol Bates helps on the Uhlianuk farm and manages the booth when it is open.

“I think it is a healthier option than what people can get at the local market,” Bates said. “If you shop at the big chain stores, you are not sure where you are getting your produce from and how it is grown. Buying from Michigan farmers, we know where the produce is from and that it is grown in the same manner we would do it.”

One of the new things at the stand this year is a fresh herb garden growing throughout the stand. Uhlianuk said several customers requested herbs last year, but bringing herbs from North Branch and having them sit outside all day was not the best way to buy them.

From rosemary to basil and thyme, the Berkley Farm Stand has herbs for cooking, baking and tea. Bates said it is free of charge to the customers.

“The herb garden is just a little thank-you to the customers,” Bates said. “We offer a snip of herb when they are buying other products as a thank-you so they can put it with the dish they are having that evening. We’ve got a really great response in Berkley and we wanted them to know we appreciate it.”

The customer reaction is why Uhlianuk knows setting up shop in her hometown was the right move to make last year. The Berkley Farm Stand may not be as big or have as wide a selection as other farmers markets, but it is a local place for those wanting fresh products.

“Berkley is such a great place to do business and they want to support Michigan and want to keep their money in Berkley to help the city,” Uhlianuk said. “If we can help them do that without having to drive far or bother with parking issues, we are happy to. We get a lot of families here and they are a very loyal group of people.”

The Berkley Farm Stand is located on 12 Mile Road in Berkley next to Clark’s Ice Cream at 3312 W. 12 Mile Road. The stand is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.