Black Star Farms: PR Fitness, Pizza, and a Pig’s Life

Marathons, llamas and wood-fired pizzas? Count me in.

This past Saturday was the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, and several fellow PR Fitness runners took part. I did not, as I am running the upcoming Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon, but I was camping in the area, so after my own run (a measly 9 miles) I joined their post-race celebration at Black Star Farms near Suttons Bay.

I’d never heard of Black Star Farms, but I learned they are well-known for their winemaking, equestrian center, and bed-and-breakfast (an impressive-looking mansion that serves as the inn). They are also a fully operational farm, raising vegetables, fruits, and livestock, which visitors are encouraged to see. And they have a cafe with the aforementioned pizzas.

Not only do llamas provide wool, they are excellent guard animals and chase away predators like coyotes.

Not only do llamas provide wool, they are excellent guard animals and chase away predators like coyotes.

One of our runners knows Don, the managing partner, and he gave us a personal guided tour, filled with stories and a fascinating description of the farm and its operations. Here are a few highlights:

– They have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where people prepay for shares in the farm’s produce and receive regular deliveries of fresh, in-season vegetables and fruits as well as eggs and baked goods.

– The farm is environmentally verified for farmstead and cropping by MAEAP, which means they are following practices that support the environment and reduce pollution.

This experimental hothouse is inexpensive to set up and can grow crops ten months out of the year.

This experimental hothouse is inexpensive to set up and can grow crops ten months out of the year. (Click to enlarge)

– Don tries to encourage young people who want to be farmers by making land available to them and helping get their operations started.

In addition to being a good steward of the land, Don considers it his mission to educate people about farms. “Many people have never been to a farm,” he said, and when he asked the group how many of us came from a farm family, only one hand went up. He feels it’s important to “reconnect” people, particularly urban residents, to where their food comes from. As an example, he told us about Copper the pig.

"It's our responsibility as farmers to serve the animals - that they live healthy lives. And then they serve us."

“It’s our responsibility as farmers to serve the animals – to see they live happy lives. And then they serve us.”

Copper had been raised as a pet in a residential neighborhood. But he grew too big to keep, so his owner offered him to Black Star, and Don took him. The owner brought along Copper’s blanket and teddy bear and begged that the pig be kept in the house, or else he would be lonely. Don put him in a pen with the goats. Soon he’d dug himself a wallow and happily settled in, and was a popular attraction. The goats ate the blanket and teddy bear.

One morning that fall Don entered the dining room at the inn and said hello to a family just finishing their breakfast. He asked them what they planned to do that day. “We’re going to see Copper,” they told him. “We hear he’s really cute.”

Don pointed to the remnants of the sausage on their plates. “You’ve already met him,” he said.

The hind legs of these long-haired pigs are worth $1,000 each. Sorry, Wilbur.

The hind legs of these long-haired pigs are worth $1,000 each at market. Sorry, Wilbur.

The family was shocked, as I suppose most of us non-farmers would be, but pigs are something the farm raises, and farmers cannot afford to be sentimental about their crops. “It’s our responsibility as farmers to ensure the animals have a good life,” he said. “And then they are harvested, and they serve us.” Animals, as a farm resource, are harvested when the time comes, just as vegetables and fruits are.

Oh yes, and the pizzas are very tasty (click here for a photo of one). I had the basic Margherita (cheese, sauce, basil), but other items you can have include goat cheese, chicken, and prosciutto. Guess where that all comes from.

Next up – some fun facts about winemaking in Michigan.

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2 responses to “Black Star Farms: PR Fitness, Pizza, and a Pig’s Life

  1. Sounds like a great farm. I love Traverse City.

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