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Behind the colorful, hand-drawn signs and the bundles of kale and garlic scapes of Wildflower Eco Farm is Philip Throop, a man who has dedicated his life to helping things grow.
Originally from Lansing and now living and farming in Bath Township, Throop has a BS and MS in horticulture from MSU, and worked as an extension educator with Cornell University for four years before returning to East Lansing to work briefly as a “veggy researcher” at MSU. He says his “first foray in commercial plant production was as a contract tree planter for paper companies and DNRs in various states in the early 80's.”
Wildflower Eco Farm grew out of Throop’s work as a perennial ornamental nursery manager at Bath’s Lorian Farms Nursery. “That farm,” he explains, “was next to another nursery called Grimes Gardens, now our farm. I was impressed by the natural beauty, excellent soils and character of the area and when Grimes Gardens went for sale in 2000, just as I was looking to move back from New York, I purchased it.”
As Throop, his son and their friends “were slowly developing the farm from perennial plant production to food production,” he worked for The Garden Project, part of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, helping people in the community have access to their own food production. “I’ve always been health conscious,” says Throop, “and using natural, chemical free methods of fruit and vegetable growing was the only way to grow.”
These days, running the farm is often a year-round job. Growing cycles start with planning/mapping of gardens for crop rotation, then purchasing of seeds and materials, field and soil preparation (including procurement and incorporation of compost), then seed planting.
“For seedlings, we start planting in a heated greenhouse or grow room starting in late February/ early March and transplant depending on type of plant starting in April. Seeding and planting are continuous through October.” During market season, harvesting for the Sunday East Lansing Farmers Market is started on Saturday and continues into Sunday, after which crops are rinsed and boxed for transportation to Valley Court.
Despite some sacrifices, Throop is clearly well-suited to the rigors of farming: “I like to work so the non-stop (7-days-a-week) nature of the work is good, but can get stressful also. It is difficult to fit culture, planting, harvesting and marketing all at once and scheduling needs to be regimented and that is where the difficulty arises. I also miss traveling in the summer.”
He adds that he has “a natural inclination to grow things, so the best part is following that drive,” and that everyone at Wildflower “is extremely grateful for the market and the customers that allow us the privilege of growing clean food for the community.”
This Sunday, July 5th, Wildflower Eco Farm will likely be selling kale, collards, broccoli, Swiss chard, rhubarb, garlic scapes, new potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, cilantro and basil. Throop (who is often a willing to provide ideas for using his produce) says his family “likes to stir fry garlic scapes, kale and potatoes with curry.”
To find out more about Wildflower Eco Farm, check out their Facebook Page.
The East Lansing Farmers Market is open in Valley Court Park from 10:00AM to 2:00PM every Sunday through October 25th.
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