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New Sun Farm develops farm share in RC

News Photo by Crystal Nelson New Sun Farm owner Zach Wilbur uses a broadfork to work the soil in his hoop house on Wednesday in Moltke Township.

ROGERS CITY — A supportive community planted an unexpected seed for New Sun Farm owners Zach and Katherine Wilbur amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The couple moved to Moltke Township nearly three years ago to start a farm and are now in their second year of growing crops in their market garden.

They first met at Michigan State University’s Student Organic Farm in East Lansing, where Katherine was a teacher after previously completing the program as a student. Zach had just returned from his second tour in Afghanistan, where he served in the U.S. Marine Corps infantry.

“By the time Zach started (the program), I was a teacher, and then he stayed on to work,” Katherine said. “Then we got married, got pregnant, and moved up here.”

The Wilburs started New Sun Farm with the vision of growing healthy and convenient food for the community.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson New Sun Farm Owners Katherine and Zach Wilbur on Wednesday watch their chickens on their Moltke Township farm.

They grow about 30 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and fruit, which they sell at a farmstand near their house and at the Rogers City Farmers Market.

A hoop house helps them extend the season and grow crops that otherwise would not survive the winter, and a small brood of laying hens is set to expand this year so they can meet the demand for fresh farm eggs.

Throughout the winter months, Katherine sold the hoop house-grown produce at her business, Woodland Confectionary.

Then thousands of Michiganders were forced out of work as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all but the most essential businesses to close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Faced with an overabundance of produce, the Wilburs felt it was the right time to support their customers — the people Katherine said they have come to know and love — by giving that produce away and delivering it right to their doorsteps.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Produce grown at New Sun Farm is displayed on Wednesday.

Katherine said the feedback was “overwhelmingly positive.” Then people started asking where they could purchase their produce.

That’s when they decided to change their business model and start a farm share membership.

In a farm share, customers prepay for their produce and are able to choose the produce they receive as it comes into season.

The Wilburs have signed 20 people up for their farm share. Katherine said it’s “really an awesome feeling” to have the community choose to invest in their farm.

“I’m really excited about the farm share,” she said. “It’s solidifying and also growing the community of food enthusiasts in Rogers City — and there’s quite a few of them.”

While the farm continues to gain a foothold in the community, the Wilburs both have other jobs. Katherine owns Woodland Confectionary and Zach works full-time as a paramedic for the Rogers City Area Ambulance Authority, where he works three 24-hour shifts a week. The rest of the time, Zach said, farming is his favorite thing to do.

One day, Zach would like to see the farm stand on its own.

“I want it to be our primary source of income, with Woodland Confectionary,” he said. “I want to employ people and feed people — I don’t know what that would look like exactly.”

In the meantime, the Wilburs are prepping the soil and sowing seeds that will sustain their members in the upcoming growing season.

Spring on the farm hasn’t been affected that much by the pandemic, because they’re still busy and are planting things, Katherine said.

“When we think about what’s happening outside of our little farm, it can be depressing and stressful, so it’s nice to be able to be able to focus on little baby plants and knowing we’re growing food for people,” she said. “We can do our tiny part to help make people be a little better, a little healthier.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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