Encore November 2014

Page 10

Enterprise ENCORE

A Family Farm and More

VerHage siblings blend crops with tourism by

Tiffany Fitzgerald

From left, brothers Kiar and Tom Gamsho and Kiar’s brother-in-law Sam Shina operate the Park Street Market in the city’s Northside community.

It’s a weekday at VerHage Fruit Farm and Cider Mill, on West ML

Avenue. Owners and siblings Kelly and Kevin VerHage hustle around the farm, preparing for the weekend. Kelly is answering the phone while stocking shelves in her country store, and Kevin is busy transporting produce and equipment. “Except for January, February and March, when we’re closed for the weather, we’ve got something going on all year,” Kelly says. Kelly and Kevin operate the farm together as partners. While Kelly takes care of the business end, running the country store, answering phone calls and e-mails, organizing social media and promotion and helping to plan seasonal events, Kevin runs the growing side, managing the 130 acres the family owns, split between two locations. Kelly’s two daughters, Danielle Holbrook and Megan Allen, also work on the farm. Allen works as head baker, incorporating the seasonal

10 | Encore NOVEMBER 2013

Co-owner Kelly VerHage samples some apple cider fresh from the press at VerHage Fruit Farm and Cider Mill.

fruits and veggies grown on the farm into savory and sweet treats for visitors, while Holbrook assists with baking and with running a booth at the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market. In short, the family is extremely busy. But they’re used to it. “Kevin and I have been working on the farm our whole lives,” Kelly says. “Our dad would put us on the side of the highway selling produce when we were probably 10 or so. We couldn’t do that with our kids, of course ­— it was just a different time back then, with us — but many of our kids have been helping out on the farm since high school.” Kelly and Kevin VerHage inherited the farm from their parents, Vern and Nancy VerHage, in 1999. Vern and Nancy originally bought

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