A well-established destination farm in southern Michigan has come up with an innovative way to not only stay in touch with its COVID-confined clientele, but help other nearby consumer-facing farm businesses in the process.
Begun in 1956 a simple apple orchard, Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm has expanded its offerings to become a popular regional attraction, offering diverse food, beverages and entertainment choices.
Even so, the current generations of Meckleys knew they had to get creative to prevent a dangerous COVID-induced slow-down at the 70-acre operation in northeastern Hillsdale County.
Second-generation owners and Hillsdale County Farm Bureau members Steve and Adrienne Meckley run the show, but their children Lindsay and Nicholas are proving vital to the business’ adaptation to hard times.
“I had been exploring the idea of participating in local farmers markets, but with recent events creating closures or slowing down other small businesses in the area, we decided to figure out how to do it here,” Lindsay said.
Rather than having consumers make several stops at local farms to pick up their products, Meckley’s brought the goods to the consumers as a one-stop-shop. They call it The Local Bushel, a collaborative effort of area farm businesses aimed at providing customers with locally sourced edibles from several nearby producers:
Other local products on offer include honey, fresh eggs, Amish candies, maple syrup, artisanal bread and homemade jams and jellies.
“We had 50 Local Bushels available for purchase on April 18 and they sold out within 30-45 minutes,” Lindsay said. “That inspired us to continue, so the next Local Bushel will be available on May 8 with a limit of 150.”
Lindsay said they already have more than that many orders — and more area businesses reaching out, wanting to participate.
Despite the challenges theirs and other businesses are facing, the Meckley's hope to continue offering Local Bushels bi-weekly through this season.
“I’m excited and grateful that we’re all there for each other during this time,” said Lindsay.
Meckley’s has a devoted customer base that comes from far and wide for their donuts, cider, fresh fruits, farm-brewed beers and other temptations. Most of their products are grown and packaged right there on the farm.
The operation just moved toward opening year-round this past year. Normally the peak season is autumn, followed by a winter shut-down. But with recent additions, including a brewery, they’re now open most of the year.
In the cider mill, the smell of apples fills the air, from fresh apples, cider, and pies. At the height of the season, the line for donuts often pours out the entrance.
Above the bakery is the brewery, with a comfortable seating area where friends and family can enjoy a meal and freshly brewed beer. Some Saturday evenings feature local bands for entertainment!
Dial in Meckley’s Facebook page or website for more detail about Local Bushels and other news from their farm. There’s even some fun videos of Steve giving apple trees haircuts and making those delicious donuts!
Janelle Walworth is the administrative manager for the Jackson and Hillsdale county Farm Bureaus.