Time to Go Local! I’ve compiled a list of growers, farmers, artisans, restaurants, retailers and more from the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area. They are often sustainable, always whole foods, sometimes organic, and definitely local businesses you can frequent to find high quality, low traveled food to nourish your family.
The sources of these resources, which aren’t purporting to be comprehensive in any way, include my own experience, others’ recommendations, and conversations I had at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market this month. Those resources marked with a star denote places I’ve actually visited and recommend. I’ll also break down my opinion on the source of real food with these symbols:
- FM Find them at the Fulton St. Farmer’s Market
- P Pastured Eggs
- GF 100% grassfed meat
- O Organic or mainly organic
- (O) Making attempts at organic practices; better than mainstream
- NS No spray farm
- impact on your pocketbook (1 = lower prices, 4 = expensive in my book) If not listed, I’m simply not sure of pricing.
- Has all the “right answers” to “the questions“
- An excellent compromise option; one I would purchase from
If you’re from the area and have an update, suggestion, or correction for the page, please join in the comments to enhance the resource for all of us!
As you might imagine, this list took hours to compile. If you appreciate it, please consider checking out the rest of the site and perhaps even grabbing a free email subscription or subscribing via reader. You can also follow me on Twitter, get KS for Kindle, or see my Facebook Fan Page. Thanks for stopping by!
General Food Resources
If you’re serious about local food in Grand Rapids, MI, this is the place for you. For a truly comprehensive list of all local food producers, retailers and restaurants, click here to download the 48-page “West Michigan FRESH Local Food Guide.” It includes everything, without the opinionated commentary like you’re find on this page.
For a yearly membership fee, area farmers deliver produce, meats and more to a once a month drop off in GR.
Michigan Good Food is an initiative to develop a policy agenda that supports Good Food in Michigan – food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable – and to inform the 2010 state and local elections. Sponsored by the CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Food & Community Program. Good Food means food that is: Healthy – It provides nourishment and enables people to thrive; Green – It was produced in a manner that is environmentally sustainable; Fair – No one along the production line was exploited for its creation; Affordable – All people have access to it.
The local health food store for Grand Rapids. If you’re looking for a new ingredient and can’t find it at Meijer, you’ll want to make your next stop Harvest Health. And ask for help: people who know what they’re doing are waiting to do just that. Try out their Cascade, Hudsonville or central Eastern Ave. locations.
Smart Choice Market, Byron Center
Brand new in Byron, Smart Choice is just getting off the ground (2012), and I’m so happy to patronize them and applaud their good intentions. Specialties include lots of allergy-friendly products, a HUGE gluten-free organic bulk section (think dried beans, popcorn, grains, flours, sugars, etc.), and a smoothie bar. You can find Healthy Snacks to Go in print available at Smart Choice!
Stores in Holland and on Wealthy in Grand Rapids. Treehuggers was recommended to me for its natural items and practices. Awesome!
Nourishing, traditional foods – all organic and grassfed at this small market on Wealthy in GR.
A new endeavor by Wendy of The Local Cook, Eat Local West MI is a round-up of local real food resources that will be dynamic, including relevant meetings, classes, and specials pertaining to local food in our area.
An organization to support local businesses, farms, and food, Local First sponsors social events and brings together local businesses to foster Sustainability, Collaboration, and Support.
Farms: Meat, Milk & Eggs
Angelus Farms P GF O
7798 Wingeier Ave, Alto, MI 49302, 616-868-7339
A Catholic family-owned and operated farm, Angelus raises organic dairy cattle and runs a cow share program for raw milk. They also raise chickens for pastured eggs and run the farm the way Joel Salatin does on a smaller scale. Honey, maple syrup. This was our milk farm before we moved. You can read more at Why I Choose Raw Milk.
Grassfields Cheese, LLC FM P GF O (O)
14238 60th Avenue, Coopersville, MI 49404
phone and fax: (616)997-8251
“We are a fifth generation, family-owned and operated farm. Our family has been farming this same land since 1882 with the motivation of producing food for Americans. Our organic cheeses and natural meats are available in our on-farm retail cheese shop. We enjoy serving you, our customers, as we glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, our service, and our stewardship of His land and animals which He has graciously lent us.” Where I get beef, chicken and pork, along with rennet for cheese. Grassfields also has cheese classes, beautiful pastured eggs (but not organic or non-GMO), and even apple cider. See my updated questions after a farm tour here and a great interview with Betsy Meerman here.
Green Pastures is Grassfields’ organic dairy
Recommended by a reader in Zeeland. Pastured chickens and eggs at really good prices, even boneless chicken breasts, local honey and more. Sales on farm.
High quality, delicious cheese from grassfed, hand-milked cows in Michigan. Raw milk cheese available, but not truly raw. Sold at many Farmer’s Markets in the GR area plus some local stores like Byron Center Meats, Apple Valley, Harvest Health, and other specialty shops. I buy in 5-pound blocks…rather regularly…ahem. More on good cheese here.
Crane Dance Farm FM P GF O
Grassfed. Sustainable. Humane. Crane Dance is the only farm in Michigan that is animal welfare-approved for pigs. See the standards. “Providing chemical-free, nutritious, and delicious pork, beef, lamb, poultry, and eggs is our life goal, as we work humanely with our animals and in harmony with our land.”
Much of Crane Dance stuff is more expensive than I like to dabble with, BUT their bacon is in line with other local bacon, and it is 100% nitrate/nitrite free, whereas others are often “low nitrite.” Besides that, it’s totally amazing and got an A+ from the family. So the new goal is that when I splurge on bacon, I’m going Crane Dance every time. (as of 4/27/11)
The Udder Farm Owners (UFO) & Woodbridge Dairy FM P GF O
Byron Center, MI 49315
Organically grown, 100% grassfed beef, whey-fed pork, duck and chicken eggs. Also raw milk cow shares, grassfed but for some self-harvested non-GMO corn for silage in the winter, along with hay and alfalfa. The owner started the process of becoming organically certified but stopped because of the expense, and she passes on the savings to the consumer. The ground beef is $5.50/lb. I almost don’t want to share this gem with you, in case there’s none left for me! I had the most delightful and animated conversation with Karin, the agister extraordinaire at UFO. She told me she got all excited watching the cows go out on pasture for the first time in the spring – and I told her I was awfully excited to have discovered her! UPDATE (fall 2010): I’m loving UFO’s chicken eggs with their deep colored yolks and incredible flavor! Starting to switch over to buying beef here, especially when I found out she’ll be at the Fulton Market some Saturdays through the winter. UPDATE: Check out a great interview with Karin here.
UPDATE: As of spring 2012, this is our raw milk farm. Yum! Karin is also at the new downtown market as well as Fulton St.
Lubbers Family Farm P GF O
O-862 Luce Street SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534
“Lubbers Family Farm raises meats and operates a cow share program. We offer beef, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken and eggs. We also house a bakery, the Little Rooster Bread Company, owned by our son. More information about the bakery can be found at www.littlerooster.net. Lubbers Family Farm is a family owned farm in West Michigan that has been farmed sustainably since 1995. For us, it started in 1993 when our youngest daughter, then six-years-old, was diagnosed with brain cancer.”
Creswick Farms FM P GF O
6500 Rollenhagen Rd, Ravenna, MI 49451
Creswick raises beef, pork, lamb, poultry and eggs (in season). They participate in the West Michigan Co-op so you can get their meats once a month in GR. Creswick practices sustainable farming Joel Salatin style. Their site has a great list of other local resources! Watch for Creswick meats in many local restaurants; they are a sure measuring stick of quality.
“A Grade A Commercial Dairy for eight years, they now provide goat shares to those wishing to drink organic raw goat milk from their own goats. They raise their own grain and hay for their animals. Fresh strawberries and produce in season–including many old-fashioned heirloom vegetables. Free-range eggs and turkeys (average 12-15 pounds; much nicer than the big birds). No hybrids or GMO on this farm.”
Rakowski Family Farm FM P
130-131st Ave, Wayland, MI 49348
Vegetables, pork, lamb, turkey, free-range eggs. Find them at the Fulton Farmer’s Market in the summer and eggs at Harvest Health all year round. You can get on their mailing list for orders and updates. “All our products and produce that we offer for sale, are either made or grown by us on our farm. We fertilize with composted manure from animals raised on our farm. We also grind all of our own feeds for our animals, so we know what is going into their food.” Rakowski is not organic, but the chickens do get to run around and eat bugs. Not ideal, but for the price, this is an “emergency backup” source of eggs, especially since Harvest Health carries them in case you can’t get to a farm. Ask the hard questions here, like about GMOs…
The only raw goat’s cheddar in Michigan!
River Valley Poultry Farm FM P (O)
Kingsley, MI 49649
At their fairly new farm, these two young fellas raise ducks, turkeys, pheasant and chickens. They’re not quite organic but have moved to using non-GMO corn and soy as of Fall 2010. They raise some of the feed on their own land. Keep an eye on them – they’re trying to switch over to organic with all their feed and have a lot of growing to do. They will be at the Fulton Farmer’s Market some Saturdays through the winter and can take orders via email or phone, as well as having some inventory additionally.
Selling lamb, beef, pork, chicken and eggs, they are: chemical free, pastured, winter feed grown on farm, no hormones or meds, humane butchering.
Coach Stop Farm (O) NS
3755 72nd Avenue, Zeeland, MI 49464
(616) 772 4660
Coach Stop offers lamb, chicken and pork that is naturally raised, although not totally organic. They use some grain and corn feed, but no hormones or antibiotics. 100% free range, mostly grassfed.
Soil Power Farms (CSA) O
8th Ave near 92nd
Byron Center, MI
The CSA we’re using in summer 2012. Brand new organic produce, both fruits and veggies and herbs. Pick up is on the farm or Wed. evening at Fulton Market.
Brickyard Farms FM (O) NS
Cloverdale, MI 49035
A “no-spray” farm with a small selection of vegetables. Also offer plants for gardens and artisan soaps and lip balms (safe ingredients!).
“We pledge to grow the most nutritious vegetables and fruits in an eco-friendly manner for you, also to be good stewards of the land.” Tomatoes, peppers, melons, onions, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, pumpkins and more. Offers a CSA for $30/week and barters for other fruits and veggies to round out the selection. I never would have known about this one if I hadn’t asked. I was actually surprised by the “well, we’re not certified organic” answer that I got, because unlike many eco-friendly growers, D&M doesn’t put up signs and shout it from the hilltops. I don’t have any experience with them other than my questions, but I’m happy to know that they got the “right answer”!
Ham Family Farm FM (O)
Over 30 varieties of fresh produce grown sustainably with care for the environment taken into account. Many unique fruits and vegetables along with the old stand-bys, including 25 tomato varieties. I’ve known for a couple years that these guys don’t spray their lettuce in the early part of the season, so I buy from them until it gets really hot and then switch to certified organic. I didn’t know how sustainable their growing practices overall were until I Googled them for this page, though! Another example of the value of asking questions about your food.
Used to be a certified organic farm…??? Turtle Island grows lots of greens, herbs, peppers, tomatoes, squash and more. You can find them most days at the Fulton St. Farmer’s Market. I am finding I buy less from them now that I’ve had more conversations with other growers and gotten happy answers…I wish I knew what happened to their organic status.
Trillium Haven FM O
1391 Maplewood Dr., Jenison, MI 49428
“We believe that there are better ways to farm other than using the industrial model: small-scale farming keeps us attuned to our land and our community. Because we do not want to damage our own land, and because we see our land as part of all the surrounding ecosystems, we do not use any pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers that pollute the land, water, or air.” Many varieties of greens, vegetables, herbs and some melons available at markets and via a CSA, which sells out early in the spring!
“Whether it’s a God thing or an evolution thing, a cow is not supposed to eat anything but grass,” says Mike O’Brien. The cows of Providence Farms are 100 percent grass-fed; O’Brien and his wife, Teresa, rotate the herds daily among several paddocks. “They get grass, clean water and kelp [seaweed] as their mineral source, and no antibiotics or hormones,” O’Brien says. Providence Farms also raises sheep, pigs, chickens and turkeys, all of which get a hormone-and-antibiotic-free diet. Friday: Saugatuck Green Market Saturday: Holland Farmers’ Market
Groundswell Community Farm FM O
6527 Quincy St, Zeeland, MI 49464
Certified organic CSAs offered for a wide range of vegetables. Groundswell has been farmed organically since it started in 2006.
Len Goodell FM (O)
This is my basil guy that I spoke about here. Len sells great herbs, grown indoors, along with plants for gardeners, tomatoes, green peppers, lots of squash, and a few other veggies. Chat with him about growing practices, and you’ll like what you hear! You can find him in stalls 90-92 at the Fulton Farmer’s Market T, W, Fr and Sa. I finally learned his name this year.
Fat Blossom Farm Company FM O NS
2086 20th St., Allegan, MI 49010
Beautiful, unique vegetables with a “no-spray” guarantee. Non-certified organic, this farm takes care of the earth with extended crop rotation and sustainable, ecologically friendly growing practices. A wide variety of crops are available, as well as a CSA.
4380 S. Gordon Ave., Fremont, MI 49412
Only sell what they grow, and “same day freshness” is their goal. A seriously HUGE offering of fruits and vegetables. A visit to the website is well worth it.
EarthKeeper Farms O NS
12062 Fruit Ridge Ave. Kent City, MI
Recommended by Kelly the Kitchen Kop, EK Farms produce is found at the Rockford and Ada Farmer’s Markets. CSA available, over 50 crops. Visit the website to see them all. “Biodiversity, environmental protection, building healthy soil, and commitment to a local food system are a few key elements of the farm.
Farms: Fruit (U-pick & Other)
UPDATE: A cherry question: I had more conversations with cherry farmers after I published this page, and I remain a little confused as to the optimal answer. The farmer I talked to was stand-offish, which turns me off, but he said he used the same sprays the organic people use. Then he said that one of the chemicals approved for organic growers is also used to mass kill fish in rivers and is such nasty stuff he’d never touch it. I think he assumed I was looking for an “organic only” kind of answer and didn’t think I’d appreciate his seemingly eco-friendly choice. However, I’m not sure who to trust. If every cherry grower is telling me they use the stuff approved for organic growers, what’s the deal? Why aren’t they advertising that? Is the difference that they’re fertilizing with inorganic material? I have more to learn about fruit growing…
Wells Orchards FM (O)
0-8993 Kenowa SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Open July-March, M-F 8a-6p Sat 8a-5p
Growers of apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, apricots, sweet cherries, pumpkins, squash, honey. U-pick apples, peaches and cherries for sure. After asking the farmer about his growing practices, I liked his answer: integrated pest management, try to spray for bugs once early in the season so they don’t have to spray again, use eco-friendly chemicals when possible. He explained that with Michigan’s climate, cherry growers must spray for mold/rot, but that they use the fungicide that organic growers would use, rated “zero days to harvest,” as in, you can pick cherries right after they’re sprayed. Other fungicides are rated as “X weeks to harvest.” Our family picked cherries here for the first time and I was impressed by the sound system set up to scare away the birds and all the non-chemical pest fighters I could see and hear. The picking was easy, but at $1.50/pound, I don’t know if pitting all of them is worth it for me. Wells has great markdowns on bruised apples in the fall!
Sandy Bottom Berries
11555 Sandy Bottom Road NE Rockford, MI 49341
U-pick raspberries, cherries and blueberries. Dust fruit with grape Kool-aid to keep the bugs and birds away! When I hear an answer like that, I know a farm is committed to making conscious eco-friendly choices. For the price, this was our favorite berry u-pick last season, and the berries were humongous. Very family-friendly and easy to pick.
DK Orchards/Vince Brown Farms
18059 8th Ave., Conklin, MI 49403
U-pick strawberries, apples, tomatoes, peaches, pumpkins. Farm store with other veggies, too. For the price (,$10/bushel for apples) and the atmosphere that makes our favorite family outing of the year, I admit I haven’t even asked about growing practices here. We go twice a fall for the free hayride out to the orchard to pick apples, the free kids’ corn maze, and our Halloween pumpkins.
I love to splurge on a pint of raspberries from these ladies before we get to u-pick in July. When asked about their growing practices, they said, “We’re not certified organic, but…” I was even happier to buy their berries! It pays to ask!
Blueberry Heritage Farms FM O
0-13871 Blair St., Holland, MI 49424
“Third generation blueberry and cranberry farm producing quality home-grown fruit – now with Certified Organic blueberries. We offer a variety of fresh local fruit and vegetables, preserves, toppings, salsas, chocolate covered fruit and fresh roasted organic coffee.” No U-pick because certified organic farms can’t allow random people on them. Sigh.
Irvine Blueberries O
8172 66th Ave.,Hudsonville, MI 49426
9849 Myers Lake Ave NE Rockford, MI 49341
Apples, cherries, peaches, and plums grown here. When asked about their cherry growing practices, I heard good things like “integrated pest management.” They spray sulfur, an organic fungicide, early in the spring with no spraying close to harvest, along with as few pesticides as possible. They echoed Well Orchards saying “it’s impossible to grow organic cherries in Michigan.”
Miscellaneous: Honey, Homemade Goods
This farmer got the answer “right” for honey: raw, unfiltered honey. Honey should not be heated over 116F to be considered raw. They also sell products like lotions and lip balms.
Gluten-free granola and cookies. I had a fun conversation with Val at the Fulton Farmer’s Market. Of course, I asked her if she’d heard of soaking grains, and she had, but hadn’t tried it yet. I should send her my eBook!
All local-ish meat, no antibiotics or hormones, some grassfed, sustainably fished seafood, low-nitrate bacon, hot dogs and smoked meats. Local honey. Chicken from an Amish farm in Indiana and Otto’s (someday I need to call them to chat). I love being able to stop here for real meat in the city, and Mike, the owner, is always willing to strike up a conversation. My kids think the beef jerky sticks are the best treat! (But they just went up in price along with everything else 3/11; we could cry!) UPDATE, 4/2011: I’ve decided that with price increases, further conversations about the meat, and another reason that seems gossipy to share, I doubt I’ll be back at Van Ball’s often. It’s just too small of a step from CAFO meat for quadruple the price on split chicken breasts, the major item I used to get regularly here.
Heffron Farms (GF) (O)
3 retail stores: on Plainfield at I-96, Clyde Park and 54th, and Cascade at 28th Street. 616-794-2527
They sell local meat, raised without growth hormones or animal filler in the feed. It’s a step up from CAFOs, but they’re not organic nor 100% grassfed. Cows do spend some time on pasture. The eggs they sell are the same as “cage-free” eggs in a supermarket (i.e., not worth my money). However, you can get unhomogenized, local milk, which is a nice option sometimes.
:::local, sustainable, or organic or some combination of the three:::
Our family was totally impressed by the organic, gluten-free, and reasonably priced menu at this new restaurant in northern GR. It’s a definite recommendation, and I hope they can be successful!
Although I don’t think all the menu items are local, you’ll see some local farms and sustainable meats and fish mentioned, and the summertime view of a small lake makes the atmosphere worth the trip.
Chipotle Mexican fast food chains
Chipotle has a commitment to sustainability in how they source their meat, particularly the chicken and pork, I believe. The prices are comparable to any other Mexican fast food (think Qdoba) and the burritoes are awesome.
1015 Wealthy St SE
When you see grassfed meat from a well-known local farm on the menu, you know you’re in a good place. Electric Cheetah goes out of their way to use local and Michigan ingredients. The french fries and homemade chips are to die for (among other choices).
1001-1003 Lake Drive SE
(corner of Lake, Cherry and Diamond)
Almost everything on the menu is local or organic or both. Marie is famous for her granola, and if you like garlic, you’ll love her fare!
The Green Well Gastro Pub
924 Cherry Street SE
With a super atmosphere, The Green Well serves many local foods, Michigan foods, artisan beers, and some sustainably produced foods. The prices are reasonable and everything I’ve tried has been amazing.
San Chez, a Tapas Bistro
38 West Fulton
Serving only appetizers, San Chez is the first GR restaurant to compost. The one time I ate there, I left with a good taste on my tongue but unsatisfied with the small portions.
40 monroe center
Bistro Bella Vita Downtown
44 Grandville Ave. SW
I’ve finally gotten the chance to eat at Bistro Bella Vita, and it was an amazing experience. The chef put together a menu especially for a Weston A. Price fundraiser, and boy, was it delicious! I can’t imagine anything there is not super tasty and highly recommend it! Kelly wrote more and has photos of our meals here.
Red’s on the River, Rockford
Some locally sourced foods and a pretty darn good french onion soup – Kelly got her beef stock recipe from the chef, who makes all real food stocks with no yucky stuff in them. Ritzy and a nice treat.
- Alpen Rose Rest., 616-393-2111
- City Vu Bistro, 616-796-2100
- Marigold Lodge, 616-654-7900
Search www.localharvest.org for locations near you.