2018-01-10 / News

Hoop houses give White Pine Farm ‘competitive advantage’ for organic crops

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


This time of year, if Dale Kinney wants to get into one of his hoop houses it means he’s going to have to do a little snow shoveling. Still, it’s warm enough inside for some things to keep growing. 
Photos by Phil Foley This time of year, if Dale Kinney wants to get into one of his hoop houses it means he’s going to have to do a little snow shoveling. Still, it’s warm enough inside for some things to keep growing. Photos by Phil Foley DEERFIELD TWP. — This time of year you’d be hard pressed to find much green on a Lapeer County farm, except for the dwindling supply of cash in a farmer’s wallet. But at White Pine Farm, east of M-24 on Burnside Road there are surprisingly a few splashes of green hanging on.

Marian Listwak and Dale Kinney have a four-foot-tall stand of kale — curly and dinosaur, in their hoop house and under even smaller hoop houses they have lettuce, bok choy, carrots, turnips and other root and greens crops planted last fall just waiting for 10-hour days to kick them back into production.

Listwak’s parents, Mike and Mary, bought the farm which belonged to former Gov. Henry H. Crapo in 1866, when Mike returned from serving in WWII in 1944. Listwak and Kinney bought the 80-acre, mostly wooded spread from her mother 20 years ago.


It has recently been below freezing, but Dale Kinney’s kale plants are still growing in one of the hoop houses at White Pine Farm. By the middle of next month, he and Marian Listwak will be busy planting their spring harvest. It has recently been below freezing, but Dale Kinney’s kale plants are still growing in one of the hoop houses at White Pine Farm. By the middle of next month, he and Marian Listwak will be busy planting their spring harvest. Although the farm was certified organic in 2007, Kinney said it always was organic because of the cost of farm chemicals. “Small farmers can’t afford to use too many chemicals,” Kinney said.

Listwak said her parents started out raising beef and they still keep four to eight head of Angus-Shorthorn crosses for their “very loyal customers” who prefer the taste of grass-fed beef. However, she said, the bulk of their income comes from five acres of vegetables, most of which are grown under hoop houses.


The county’s lakes and ponds are covered in ice, but in White Pine Farm’s hoop houses, carrots and lettuce are waiting for spring. The county’s lakes and ponds are covered in ice, but in White Pine Farm’s hoop houses, carrots and lettuce are waiting for spring. The hoop houses, said Kinney, give them a “competitive advantage.” He said they allow them to start planting root vegetables and lefty greens as soon as the daytime temperatures stay above 20 degrees and there’s more than 10 hours of daylight — which is about Feb. 15.

Even when the temperatures hovered in the single digits last week, the couple has plants hanging on in their hoop houses.

With only 27 of their 80 acres tillable, Kinney said, “You can’t do industrial. You have to be more intensive. That, he said, means they’re out every day hand-weeding and when one plant dies, they replace it with another one. It also means, “As soon as one crop is done, we pull it out and plant something else.”


Marian Listwak shows off one of the sweet potatoes she harvested last fall at White Pine Farms. While it’s more of a southern crop, she and husband, Dale Kinney, found a variety that does well here. Marian Listwak shows off one of the sweet potatoes she harvested last fall at White Pine Farms. While it’s more of a southern crop, she and husband, Dale Kinney, found a variety that does well here. “We try a lot of different things,” Listwak said, “and what works, we expand on.” One of the things that works is a small farm store they opened in one of their outbuildings.

The store is actually an outgrowth of their online business csafarmersmarket.com which helps more than 30 small producers in the Thumb region market their agriculture products.

And while they’re won’t be any fresh vegetables available until March, White Pine Farm’s store has last season’s white and sweet potatoes, local gluten free flour, cider, raw milk cheese, goat milk soap dried beans, organic rolled oats and items available.

Listwak and Kinney have established a network of drop-off points as far away as Grosse Pointe and Ann Arbor to delivery their organic produce. Listwak said the drop-off points cut their delivery costs and generates foot traffic for the businesses that partner with them.

She said a baker that partners with them told her he sells a couple of loaves of bread to everyone who comes in to pick up their package.

Kinney said what they’re doing is just the “traditional way of farming.”

White Pine Farm is located at 2933 E. Burnside Rd., Deerfield Township. They can be reached at 810-688-7442 or you can find them online at www.whitepinefarm.net.

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