« Karl's Comments

Farm Family Ties

by Jeremy Lawrence

I got a real kick out of an offering from MSU Extension regarding Families Behind the Food. The concept itself is pretty interesting, and I commend it to your attention. It should be readily available at your County Extension Office. Or, youll find a lot of stuff at wmfarmlink.com . The article at my attention featured Heffron Farms headquartered at a rural Belding address, GrattanTownship in KentCounty. (Belding is in IoniaCounty, just across the county line) And then came a flood of memories and recollections of associations. Heffron Farms is headed up by Dennis Heffron and his two sons, Bryan and Jordan. Theyre all too young for me to have known them personally.

The Heffron FAMILY and the Guenther FAMILY go back a few generations, and I dont have a firm handle on just how it all works, but, Denniss dad was the late Phil Heffron, who was Kent County Sheriff for seventeen years. (no one has served longer in that office). My folks knew the Heffrons from Phils generation. At this point in this writing, I realized I was pretty fuzzy on the memories from the 1940s, so I e-mailed some observations to Heffron Farms, and received an almost instant reply, that my message would get to Dennis. He called that same evening, and filled in a bunch of blanks, and firmed up some fuzzy spots. It was no surprise that although wed never even met (as far as I know) He was most gracious and informative.

The genesis of the article from MSU Extension was the Heffron Farms stature among providers of produce to the local populace. Two years after venturing into the retail meat business by way of the City of Grand Rapids farmers market, Heffrons opened their first store, in Grand Rapids in 1985, and began expanding to provide beef to local restaurants. The beef starts life as a Holstein calf (the Heffrons are multi-generational dairymen) and are raised on hay (some folks would say grass) and grain. No growth hormones, antibiotics perhaps to a sick calf, but not otherwise, and not routinely. Dennis and Brenda and their children represent the fourth generation farming in KentCounty. It started with livestock, and crops to feed the livestock, and that formula still works today. Dennis and Brenda appreciate looking back at the way it was, and even more they enjoy looking forward. To that end, the development rights to the 80-acre home farm has been donated to KentCountys Farmland Preservation Program- - which Dennis helped create. The land therefore cannot be developed for residential or commercial purposes, but must remain in a state that can support agriculture. We now have the sixth generation of our family on this land, Dennis says. My grandson Tyler just turned one-year-old. Im so glad I can leave him this legacy to carry forward long into the future.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. (accompanying picture is a screen capture from YouTube)