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In the Keweenaw, the star of summer arrives: the local strawberry. Mouthwateringly juicy and said to be even better than candy, the Keweenaw welcomes the midsummer strawberry harvest with anticipatory enthusiasm.
At the Co-op, we are able to keep a steady supply of strawberries on our shelves thanks to two main producers: Niemela Family Growers and Rautio Berry Farm.
At the Niemela’s, Ben and Jen Niemela and their sons prepare for the harvest. Strawberry growing is a multi-year-long process. Farmers must rotate large patches of land: one year it is used for planting, the next for harvesting, and the next they are used for the cover crop to help build up the soil. The Niemelas also use free range chickens to help fertilize their soil.
Niemela sequesters one strawberry field specifically for the Co-op, where no pesticides or fertilizers are used, and the chickens that graze are fed organic feed. Pretty awesome, right?
Niemela comments that every day is a blessing at his family farm, but that his favorite part of farming is the people. Folks from all over travel to the farm for U-pick strawberries, as well as syrup, and free-range chickens in the fall. He also enjoys mentorship, like his good friend, John
The Keweenaw’s strawberry season is not merely about enjoying the fruit, but about community, and the opportunity for individuals and families to engage in the harvest, make lifelong memories of enjoying strawberries with their loved ones, and support local farmers while doing so. The bloom of strawberry season serves as a reminder that amidst our differences, the love for these luscious berries unites us all.
Niemela Family Growers
Ben & Jen Niemela
39466 N Tapiola Rd
Chassell, MI 49916
Photos & Article by Lily Venable