ZEELAND — After more than a decade of operation, one of West Michigan’s first organic farms could soon have new owners.
Co-founders Katie Brandt and Tom Cary have put their Zeeland-based Groundswell Community Farm LLC on the market as the married couple transitions into the next phase of their careers.
For prospective buyers, Groundswell Community Farm offers an entry into farming through an established organization that has existing marketing and a customer base, and one that is certified as organic, Brandt said.
“I think this is a really nice opportunity for someone to step into an organic vegetable farm with 11 years of work already done, with an infrastructure that’s already set up and all the tools and equipment,” Brandt told MiBiz. “Of course, the farm could always use more improvements, one more cultivating tool, or whatever, but it is a turnkey system at this point.”
The operation, which includes 6.5 acres of organic vegetable production and 17 acres between two farms, has annual sales of approximately $200,000 through a network of 180 community supported agriculture (CSA) members, three farmers markets, various retail outlets and a wholesale contract for garlic seeds. Farm equipment and tools will be included in the sale.
The founders are asking $195,000 for the primary farm located at 6527 Quincy Street in Zeeland, and $95,000 for a smaller, secondary farm located at 6275 Polk Street in Hudsonville.
The company seeks buyers with at least two years of farming experience to take over the operation. Brandt and Cary intend to stay on for one season following the purchase to help onboard the next owners and transition the operation. Groundswell Community Farm also has several experienced workers that would help the new owners manage the farm.
“There’s a lot that goes into farming in general and a lot that goes into our operation in particular,” Brandt said. “We are currently growing 300 varieties of crops on two different soil types. Just having some background on seeing how things work on this farm is very useful to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Whoever purchases Groundswell Community Farm will likely capitalize on a growing market for organic produce. Total sales of organic food in the U.S. have grown steadily, reaching approximately $35 billion in 2015, up from roughly $18 billion in 2006, according to data from the Organic Trade Association, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.
Groundswell Community Farm has benefited from the surge in organic food sales over the years, Brandt said. However, as the farm has matured, it’s found it more challenging to add members to its CSA program and grow beyond a double-digit rate.
“We haven’t been able to grow at the rate we’d like to see the CSA grow and the rate we can grow production at the farm,” Brandt said. “But what we’ve done to make up for that slack is to keep finding and adding great farmers markets.”
When it comes to her reason for transitioning the company, Brandt is quick to quell any concern that the farm is no longer economically viable. The sale is simply a matter of her desire to launch a new career either teaching sustainable agriculture at the college level or working with the Michigan State Extension Office.
“I just want to look at it as moving on to the next step in my career,” she said.