From the Farm to Zingerman’s

Note: From time to time we like to feature news from our local food community. Today’s post comes from Andrea Ridgard at Tilian Farms. Zingerman’s guests will soon be enjoying produce from Tilian as part of the novel Business CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) we have arranged. Read on to find out more!

[tooltip title=”” content=”What is a CSA?
Community Supported Agriculture
CSA allows people to have direct access to fresh produce grown by local farms. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a share of vegetables from a local farmer. Each week (or bi-weekly) during the growing season, CSA members receive a quantity of fresh, quality produce.
It’s a great way to support local agriculture and get healthy, delicious, fresh veggies!” type=”classic”]What is a CSA?[/tooltip]  logo_small

 Sick and Tired of Peanut Butter & Jelly?*
Check Out Tilian & Zingerman’s Farm to Deli!

Through two programs at 4400 Pontiac Trail, in Ann Arbor Township, Tilian Farm Development Center facilitates new farm business development to increase diversified markets year round in our foodshed. Tilian’s Farm Incubator Program began with funds granted to Jeff McCabe for a pilot Four Season Farmer Incubator Project in September 2010. This small reimbursement grant, matched by volunteer hours of dedicated community leaders in farming and business development, provided for the framing of a partnership with Ann Arbor Township, who is currently leasing 44 acres to Tilian through March 2014 for a nominal fee. On the land preserved by the township, Tilian has launched a program that provides new business owners with farm experience, a place to launch their farm business, establish local accounts, and save their pennies for two years on rent-free land before moving to a more permanent location.  The program has accepted five farm businesses (Bending Sickle Community Farm, Green Things Farm, Honest Eats Farm, Meristem Farm and Seeley Farm), 3 of which are in their second year and preparing to move off Tilian to expand and secure their business in a long-term location.


Farmer Nate Lada of Green Things Farm offers: “Tilian has provided us with the basic infrastructure to get our business started.  Given the huge investments needed by new farms to begin operating, Tilian takes the place of a generational farm handed down to children or grandchildren.  I would like to see Tilian leverage community support and investment to help support new farms so that they in turn can support the community.”

Soon after the launching of the Farm Incubator Program, a core group, now known as the Steering Committee, came together to name the project Tilian, the old English root of to till, to cultivate, to strive for, to obtain. Around the same time, Tilian became a fiscal partner with Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP). This past winter, the Tilian Steering Committee implemented the Farmer Residency Program, designed largely by Michigan State University’s Organic Farmer Training Program Director, Jeremy Moghtader, with the support of Jennifer Fike, Executive Director of FSEP. The Farmer Residency Program works to provide new farmers with farm management experience and will build a sustainable funding source for both of Tilian’s programs. Rachel Beyer was the first farmer in residence. With the help of her assistant Michael Kelleher, she managed the Tilian CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), growing food for families and restaurants that purchased a share at the beginning of the season and now receive produce weekly from the farm.


Several Zingerman’s businesses – Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Delicatessen, and Zingerman’s Mail Order—have purchased 20-week Summer 2012 shares that ran through October, from the Tilian CSA. This investment from such a well-known and successful local group of businesses increased Tilian’s ability to establish long-lasting programming to boost the production and access of local food in our community. Tilian and the business of Zingerman’s recognize the need to grow more farm businesses that serve Washtenaw County, especially if we hope to move toward reaching the 10% benchmark of food consumed in our county that is also grown here. Currently, very little of what we eat in our county –at home and at restaurants—is actually grown in our county. Some rough estimates from some preliminary research conducted a few years ago by Jeff McCabe and Karl Rosaen (Real Time Farms) found that what we consume in our county from our county is less than 1%, and what we consume in our county from the larger southeastern Michigan is still under 5%!


Tilian is beginning a visioning and strategic planning process to develop a comprehensive programming structure that will include a mentoring program, pairing the farmers in both programs with local farm and business mentors, policies and systems for resource sharing, and methods for engaging the community. Tilian relies on the interest of its neighbors, area farmers, food businesses and institutional buyers for its success. The support of the community is essential to the longevity of Tilian Farm Development Center. Volunteers on the farms, monetary donors, volunteer Steering Committee members, all turn the wheels on an organization so central to the local food scene in the Ann Arbor area. If you are interested in deepening your commitment to local food and farming, and would like to volunteer on the farm, on our Steering Committee, or provide a financial contribution, please visit our website www.tiliancenter.org and click on “Contact Us” or “Donate to Tilian.”

If you are interested in getting involved more deeply in the visioning, planning and development of Tilian, please contact [email protected]. We are beginning a Strategic Visioning and Planning process this winter, which includes expanding our Steering Committee and growing our fiscal sustainability as well as securing a solid organizational structure and programming model.

*Gemini Brothers lyric