Spring Hollow Farm
6980 Zue Rd.
Buckley, MI 49620
Farmers: Diana and Richard Jelenek
Production: 10 lbs. of micro greens each week; two dozen quail eggs per day; 500 dog biscuits per week
Favorite recipe: Peanut butter oatmeal cookies
Favorite tool: Richard's father's hoe that he gave to us and our "Alice" Chalmers tractor
Farm animals: Steppenflop, our farm cat
Why do you love farming? We love the soil, the earth, being outdoors, and we've always loved animals. Farming is in our hearts! We have a passion for educating consumers to try new foods, real foods. We want to help people get in touch with where their food comes from and encourage them to leave to grow some of their own.
What are some challenges? Weather. And we have no time off! It's sometimes hard to find time for other things as farming can consume you. It's a life choice, seven days a week.
What's unique about your products? Not too many farmers are growing microgreens. It's very labor intensive, but they are so flavorful and full of nutrients and so healthy for you,
What are you proud of about your farm? We're still together and we work so well together. We're growing healthy food. It takes a lot of small farms to build this community and we're a part of that!
Growing Their Own
By Janice Benson, Taste the Local Difference
Richard and Diana Jelenek met on the first day of spring. Photo by John Russell
For Richard and Diana Jelenek, of Spring Hollow Dairy, springtime has a special meaning.
"We met on the first day of spring, we were married in the springtime, and it's our favorite time of year," says Diana. "So when it came to naming our farm, we knew it would include that word!"
Spring is also a time of new beginnings--something the Jeleneks know about--having weathered some of life’s—and farming’s—challenges.
Richard grew up in Indiana, where his father worked at a steel mill and raised a two-acre garden to supplement the family income. When Richard was just six years old, he and his father would load vegetables in the back of a pick-up truck every Saturday and go door-to-door, selling them in the neighborhood.
"I would take a dozen ears of corn, tomatoes, cukes, whatever we had,” recalls Richard.
His older brother also farmed 200 acres nearby, and Richard helped him during his teenage years, bringing produce to the farmers market in downtown Gary on weekends.
Later, Richard branched out on his own, into the vending business, and also traveled around the country working in oil fields for a number of years. Eventually he moved north, to Michigan, where he met Diana.
They met at the grocery store where she worked, and he eventually got the nerve to ask her out. They've been together ever since.
Diana was born in Frankfort and grew up in Bell Oak, east of Lansing. Her family owned two acres; they grew their own food and raised chicken, rabbits, and vegetables.
When she and Richard met, they decided that they wanted to continue the tradition of growing their own food.
Richard quit his job in the oil business and took a job in carpentry so he could be home more. They looked for some land of their own, and they found the perfect spot, in Buckley.
They got interested in raising goats and having a dairy. They wanted to do more farming and they knew that goat milk paid a good price. So they bought two dairy goats, and then twenty cashmere goats. In 1999 they also started raising fall mums, selling them at the farmers market in Traverse City.
In 2003, they took the plunge, bought 199 dairy goats and parlor equipment, and began Grade A milking. Spring Hollow Dairy was born!
They sold their milk to Zingerman's and Vermont Cheese Co., and their own cheese at the farmers market.
Richard and Diana found their niche growing micro greens, various lettuces, arugula, and kale.
Tough Year, New Direction
At the time, Diana was still working another weekday job and attending the farmers market on the weekend. Richard started doing less carpentry and began working full-time on the farm.
But, in 2006, just as their business was starting to take off, they hit a difficult year. Diana lost her full-time job; a drought harmed their herd; and they encountered some health issues. It was a heartbreaking time: They had to sell the herd and the business because costs were too high for them to justify holding on to either one.
Once the couple got through that, they looked for a way to start something new. They worked with Mike Werp, at nearby Werp Farms, and learned how to grow micro greens in their greenhouse. Soon they were raising more vegetables at their own farm and offering winter community supported agriculture shares at the Depot farmers market, in Traverse City, and at the Interlochen farmers market.
Then they became the market masters at the new farmers market at the Mercato, in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. They sell their products there, too, on Saturdays throughout the winter and at the outdoor market there on Fridays during the summer. They also attend the Frankfort farmers market on Saturdays in the summer months.
So, it seems that Richard and Diana have found their niche. They grow micro greens, bibb lettuce, romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, and they raise chicken and quail eggs. Diana also makes homemade cookies and dog treats for her customers, and both disappear very quickly each week!
They've sold their products at the Northwestern Michigan Fair Taste the Local Difference Farmers Market and at Charlie’s Natural Foods, in Frankfort. And they hope to grow their business slowly.
Though they are no longer a dairy operation, they still retain that part of their name, as customers still know them for their goat cheese. When available, they often sell Zingerman’s goat cheese alongside their own products at the market.
Diana and Richard are happy to be at this new point in their business.
Richard laughs, "As a teenager, I never thought I'd do this for a living. I thought computers were more interesting. But those early experiences were in my blood."
They are both proud of what they've accomplished.
"We work so well together and we've been able to rebound and not given up on farming. It's so deeply imbedded in us. Our faith kept us going. You say a few prayers and have to not be afraid to go in a new direction."