GTPulse: Organic, Family Farm Supplies and Supports Fresh Local Food

Providence Farm and CSA in Central Lake is the result of two teens falling in love in a Northern Michigan summer.

“Ryan is from Zeeland which is by Holland, and I’m from Muskegon but we met at a cottage his parents rented every summer,” Andrea Romeyn, co-owner of Providence said.

The cottages were on Little Glen lake and Andrea tagged along with a friend one year, where she met Ryan.

“I went home and wrote in my diary, ‘I’m going to marry him someday,’” she laughed.

Andrea and Ryan Romeyn didn’t know it then, but they would continue to weave in and out of each other’s lives for the next several years.

“We just went on with our regular lives. We’d write letters and talk on the phone once in a while. I wouldn’t tell him about my boyfriends, he wouldn’t tell me about his girlfriends. We just kept maintaining our friendship.”

They went on a Habitat for Humanity trip to Georgia in their 20s together. The project was based in Sumter County, Georgia at a place called Koinonia Farm.

The farm is an intentional community. Intentional communities are where all the residents pitch in together to keep the community running and cohesive. A lot of trust, communication and teamwork is involved, and while working down there Ryan was inspired by the community’s farming abilities.

“There was an organic garden there and it really inspired Ryan. He really didn’t know what he was going to do with his life, and he saw that garden and something really just touched his heart. When we came back to Michigan, he started his first garden and that was the garden he proposed to me in,” Andrea said.

He interned at a farm in Cedar before growing restless and looking for another opportunity to learn more about organic farming.

“We had a baby at that point, and a dog and a little Honda Civic hatchback, and he really wanted to learn more.”

They went back to Koinonia Farm for six months before ending up at another farm in North Carolina, and eventually back in Michigan.

He took a job running a CSA farm in East Jordan. Ryan had no previous experience managing a farm, and the task was an intimidating one, but one that made Providence all possible. The current manager at the time was supposed to train Ryan for a year, but left, leaving Ryan to his own devices on figuring out what goes into operating a farm. Baptism by fire forced him to get good quickly.

“His learning curve went straight up. He became such a better farmer and did so well. He was retaining customers and earning customers because the vegetables were organic and just so good.”

The farm’s success was a source of pride for both Andrea and Ryan. They were proud of how happy the customers were and how successfully the farm was running. But, it wasn’t theirs so some of that pride diminished.

“Of course, a lot of serious farmers don’t want to work for other people. They want to have their own land. So he was really intently looking for land.”

They began Providence Farm in Central Lake as a big organic farm with a little, humble farmstand. The farmstand has grown into a hub for its organic produce and other local foods and items from the area. Not only do they run a happy little farm store, but they’ve also stuck to their roots and run a successful CSA program that delivers their organic produce and fresh meat locally, including Traverse City.

They run the farm with their four children who they’ve also taught how to farm and how to be good with customers, both invaluable skills. Although Andrea doesn’t know if her children will one day take over the farm, she knows that it’s been something that has been a happy part of their lives, and a piece of the community’s heart.

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Categories: GTPulse