By MARCIA STEFFENS
Niles Daily Star
DOWAGIAC – In the former milk room, where it came fresh from the cow, now sit rows of various products all with a similar theme – they are organic.
The Clark family is excited to host the grand opening of their new Roseland Organic Market, on Dailey Road, four miles south of Dowagiac, Saturday, Oct. 11. Shown are Merrill Clark with her son, Lincoln, his wife, Shelly and their children, Emily, Landon and Gracie along with their helper, Buddy.
Roseland Organic Farms isn’t new, but the market at the home of Lincoln and Shelly Clark is having a grand opening from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11.
“It’s new life to an old building,” Lincoln said.
“We’ve been wanting to re-create the market at our farm for awhile,” Lincoln added. “The original market on M-60 is overwhelmed with traffic and noise now, and when a tornado went through a couple years ago, we all agreed to move it here.”
They and their three children, Emily, 13, Landon, 10 and Gracie, 8, are planning a wide array of activities, including hayrides, music, tours and organic food offerings at their new Roseland Organic Market, one half mile north of Dailey and Pokagon, west of Cassopolis.
Occasionally, there are people who go against the grain. They follow their own beliefs, whether or not they are popular at the moment. Lincoln’s parents, Merrill and John B. Clark concentrated on raising organic beef and feed before the label organic gained space in the grocery store aisles and stories in Newsweek and on the front page of Time magazine.
“We think organic farming is the way to go these days,” Lincoln said. “Chemicals in the soil are posing water quality problems … as well as food quality problems. We’re amazed at the number of beef recalls these days, and stores that have to dump 100s of pounds of bad beef.
“With the number of people, not on a farm, raising their own vegetables in their own gardens, many of them want to eat good meat as well. We can help them with that!”
Their family venture has been a certified organic beef and crop farm since 1985.
The Clarks used to drive their products into Chicago. When they learned many of the customers had places in the Diamond Lake area, they just told them to stop at the farm, and so the first market was born. Today the 1,600 acre beef farm is the largest organic beef farm in the midwest.
Unfortunately John died in 2006, while trying to protect his land off Dailey Road, by cutting down an evasive species – box elder trees.
John was recognized at the Kellogg Center on the campus of Michigan State University, as the 2007 Michigan Organic Conference was dedicated to his name.
John is also remembered for panels he developed, trade-marked resin embedded with natural leaves, flowers and grasses, called Vesperglas.
Butterflies and leaves seem to dance in resin. Now light filters through a few of the pieces hanging in the new market.
Understanding how vegetables are grown without pesticides is not too hard to understand. But what is organic beef? No pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or growth regulators are used; no insecticides or herbicides are used on any of their farms. Also 100 percent certified organic feed is fed to the animals.
“We are amazed at what’s happening to conventional meat these days, including the fact that the animals spend all their lives in confinement. We believe the way farm families used to raise animals is the best,” Merrill said. The Clarks have worked hard to find certified organic processing plants for the slaughter, cutting and wrapping of the beef.
“Hormones, sprays and antibiotics make organic meat even more important than organic vegetables,” Merrill said.
“The meat they sell is like what we grew up on.”
Merrill served for four years beginning in 1992, on the charter National Organic Standards Board (USDA). “I had to start from scratch with some on the board who thought animals raised without antibiotics would die.”
The market on Dailey includes a much wider variety than just meat, of organic and local foods, including cereals, sugar, relishes, salad dressings, oils, pasta sauces, ice cream and even beauty products. Local and area fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, melons, peppers, and some of the unique fruit from the Roseland paw paw patch … the paw paw being a more Southern fruit with sweet yellow pulp.
Merrill has a daughter, Merry and another son, Toby, who lives on a third farm just outside Cass on M-60 and Mullen Road. He manages the herd and takes care of hay harvesting and delivery, while Lincoln and Shelly have the market, pork production, farm management and other crops.
Merrill also donated three acres on Mullen Road for Barnswallow, when enough money is collected to build a replacement for the theater which burned down. Merrill herself was in some of the group’s plays and Lincoln does lighting.
The Clarks are looking for great beef or pork recipes from those who attend the open house, with the owner of the price-winning recipe receiving an organic mixed-beef pack worth $100. “We’ve found that many of our customers, who often travel from Chicago and Grand Rapids for their orders, have great ideas for meals featuring beef and pork.”
For more information on the market, call (269) 445-8769 or (269) 228-0376.
The market will be open during the week, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit roselandorganicfarms.com
(We are proud that former charter-member of the National Organic Standards Board, Merrill Clark, serves on the Cornucopia Policy Advisory Panel.)