GTPulse: Agriculture Meets Hospitality at Farm Club
Farm Club encompasses so much that people love about Northern Michigan; outdoor beauty, locally grown food and beer, and a place to relax and enjoy both. The new Leelanau County farm, restaurant, brewery, and marketplace just opened last month and have hit the ground running. Allison and Gary Jonas, owners of The Little Fleet and Sara and Nic Theisen, owners of Loma Farm, have teamed up to create the agriculturally driven concept that makes farm-fresh food the star of the show.
Opened in July, Farm Club had initially been slotted to open in May. The pandemic pushed back the opening, but not much of the brewery farm hybrid had to be reimagined. Comfortably sitting on 35 acres, there is plenty of space for guests to sit or roam outside. The mass of outdoor space will help mitigate some of the rollercoaster of closing and reopening that many restaurants have had to face.
“At least we know what we’re opening up against and we can set in place different systems to thrive, and I think the amount of outdoor space we have has been really comforting for a lot of people,” Allison said.
“We got really lucky because we have the space and we also had the benefit of opening up a couple of months after other businesses had already gone through trying to reopen. We had the benefit of the public getting used to dining out in this new way and all of us learning to navigate life in a pandemic,” Sara said.
Opening a new concept dining establishment isn’t a walk in the park pandemic or not, but the Jonas’s and the Theisen’s are no rookies when it comes to good food and hospitality. The couples met and bonded through a shared love of both. Sara and Nic moved to Traverse City from Colorado in 2010 and met Allison and Gary about a year later when they both moved here too.
“At the time Nic and I were doing farm dinners out at the garden and I told [Allison and Gary] about it and they came and brought some friends. I feel like the seeds for this project were planted then,” Sara said.
Seasonally rotating menus will showcase the veggies being grown on two acres of Farm Club’s land.
“We’ll have sausages, there’s talk about a roast chicken dinner. Obviously it will be heavily focused on vegetables because that’s what we’re growing, so we’ll have lots of nice salads. I think next week we’re going to have really yummy onion rings, because those are coming out of the field. They’re going to be beer-battered,” Allison said.
The beer is being brewed onsite by Allison’s brother-in-law Corey Valdez. He previously was a brewer at Jolly Pumpkin and has his PhD in chemistry with experience teaching as well.
Locally made Cultured Kombucha will be on tap, and local wines from Mawby, Brengman Brothers, and Shady Lane Cellars will be offered as well.
“We’re not a winery, but we have three incredible wineries within miles of Farm Club that do make great wine and we can showcase it here,” Sara said.
The ‘Club’ in Farm Club is not meant to suggest exclusivity but to denote the showcasing of locally grown or made goods. Farm-to-table dining can alienate potential customers who think that the term is synonymous with finer dining. The Farm Club team has worked hard to provide a space that feels chic but not stuffy, and a farm-fresh menu without pretense.
“It’s about good food and fun, and not taking anything too seriously,” Sara said. “I think that that’s happened a lot in the farm to table dining scene and we want this place to feel fun.”
Food items can also be found at a grab and go market stocked with beverages, bread, produce from the farm and other provisions perfect for a beach day or mid-afternoon stop.
But if you do have time to stop in, consider relaxing in the beautifully designed indoor or outdoor spaces. Soaring ceilings, pale blond wood beams, and light pouring windows are transporting. It’ll be hard to mess up an Instagram picture here.
Farm Club will offer a counter service where guests walk up and order. The laid back ordering works well for hikers, bikers, and future skiers and snowshoers taking a moment’s rest from the connecting TART Trail. The brewery hybrid is perfectly set up to accommodate trail users for walking and biking in the summer, and snowshoeing or skiing in the winter.
“We have access right off of our property. We built a boardwalk to access the TART. We’re hoping to encourage people to make their way here through that. We also have a fireplace inside that we’re excited to start using in the winter. We have plans to put some fire pits outside too,” Allison said.
“You could ski here for lunch and then over to Shady Lane or any other businesses that are on the trail as well. It’s just part of a big network of recreation and fun,” Sara said.
Get your dose of sunshine, good company and good food at Farm Club weekdays from 3 pm to 10 pm, and weekends from noon until 10 pm.
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