Thursday, April 10, 2014

ISLAND Silent Auction Benefit Moves Online

For many years, ISLAND has raised funds to grow vibrant programs in the arts and agriculture through a combination silent auction and benefit concert held at Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire.

Starting this year, bidders in the silent auction can choose between two platforms. The main auction takes in person, as it always has, at Short’s. But this year, before the main auction starts, bidders can also choose to support ISLAND programs by placing bids on select art, food, and handmade goods online via ISLAND's Facebook page.

Items featured in the online ISLAND silent auction will be open to public viewing this Friday, April 11th. To bid, go to ISLAND's Facebook page and click on the photo album called Online Silent Auction. Each photo contains an item description which includes starting bids. Check for previous bids, then place your own by commenting with a price.

The auction continues at its online home through Friday, April 18th at 5pm, at which point it moves offline to the ISLAND benefit concert, held Saturday, April 19th at Short’s. Your bid will carry over from the online auction, and if yours is still the highest bid by the end of the night, you win.

Can’t make the benefit concert and physical auction but want to bid online? We will inform you via Facebook if you win.

Here's a sample of what could be yours: 
·         get-away weekends at local accommodations
·         festival tickets
·         babysitting services, a beekeeping consultation, a Shiatsu session
·         original art for walls, windows and home
·         jams, baked goods, food from farms
·         local wines, beers and ciders
·         time in a recording studio
·         hand-made wood servingware, utensils and ceramic dishes 
·         handmade fashions, wearable art and jewelry 
·         gift certificates from bakeries, plant nurseries, restaurants and farms
·         … and more!

Watch the ISLAND Facebook page for silent auction posts.

The 8th annual ISLAND benefit concert takes place April 19th at Short's Brewing Company in Bellaire from 4pm til late. Suggested donation is $10-$20 (sliding scale) at the door. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Additional donations are also welcome!

Find the good stuff on the ISLAND Facebook page, and get the full line-up and all the details at:

Monday, December 09, 2013

Get Farming! Keep Farming! Saving Seeds from the Farm or Garden (& Seed Exchange)

Saturday, January 11, 10am to 3pm
Grow Benzie, 5884 M-115 (Frankfort Hwy), Benzonia

Saving seeds can benefit growers in many ways, including preservation of rare varieties, adapting favorites to your growing conditions, planting the freshest possible seeds, and saving money. Three local seed saving enthusiasts will provide specific information on saving seeds. 

Bring seeds to sell, trade, or give away; table space will be provided at no cost. Bring a dish to pass for a potluck lunch. A donation of $7 ($10 for families) is suggested.

Presenters:    Craig Schaaf, Golden Rule Farm; Casey Dunagua, Five Springs Farm; Mike Kiessel, Leelanau County plant breeder. 

10am - 11am:  

Craig Schaaf  on seed saving: expect an inspiring and informative talk 

Potluck lunch

1pm - 3pm:   
Discuss seed saving technique with other presenters, one-one-one and in small groups 
PLUS seed sales and exchange. 

Get Farming! Keep Farming! partners include USDA, ISLAND, NW Michigan Food & Farming Network, Michigan Land Use Institute, and Michigan State University Extension. 

For information, contact Jim Sluyter at 231-889-0199,, or visit

This program is supported by the USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)

ISLAND programs: doing it together

In the past several years, we have come together as a community to learn how to do more for ourselves—together. 

ISLAND organizes workshops for homeowners, homesteaders and farmers, teaching skills like welding, food preservation, livestock husbandry, soil development, care and use of farm machinery and other equipment, construction and use of passive solar hoophouses, garden design, and more.
We measure success in the new gardens growing (dozens), mason jars sitting on basement shelves (hundreds), and honey bees pollinating our woods and fields (hundreds of thousands).

“You are such a great connector! I really appreciate having the hub that you provide for information sharing. It is crucial. There is so much great talent and intelligence here that it is combustible once we get us all hooked up.”   —guild member and workshopper

Please support this important work. Donate today.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Register today and save!

Join us for the 15th Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference! Register before December 20 and save.

We're moving to a bigger barn!

Due to the tremendous popularity of this gathering of small farmers and growers, food enthusiasts, homesteaders and engaged eaters, the 2014 conference will be held at the Grand Traverse Resort, just north of Traverse City, on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

With keynote speaker, John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri Columbia. John Ikerd was raised on a small dairy farm in southwest Missouri and received his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri. He worked in private industry for a time and spent thirty years in various professorial positions at four different state universities before retiring in early 2000. Since retiring, he spends most of his time writing and speaking on issues related to sustainability. He is the author of five published books and two free on-line books which can be located through his personal website at

2014 Conference Sessions
  • Cut Flower Farm Start-up, Beth Weaver, Black Dog Farms
  • Designing Resilient Farms and Homesteads, Mark Angelini, Roots to Fruits, LLC
  • Field and Fork: One Example of Value Added Integration, Abra Berens, Bare Knuckle Farm
  • Farmland Preservation as a Tool in Farmland Transfers, Brian Bourdages, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
  • Firewise on the Farm, Jed Jaworski, MSU Extension
  • First Year Cut Flower Growing, Julie Hay, Red Fox Gardens; Michelle Shackelford, Perbellus Farms; September Dykema, September’s Herbs and Produce, LLC
  • Food Forestry and Holistic Orcharding, Trevor Newman, Roots to Fruits, LLC
  • Food Safety For Vegetable Farms, Atina Diffley, farmer and author of Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works
  • Grapevines in the Landscape, Chantal M Lefebvre, WaterFire Vineyards
  • Grass Finishing beef in Northern Michigan, Jason Rowntree, Michigan State University
  • Growing the Farm, Ryan and Andrea Romeyn, Providence Farm
  • Home Made Season Extension, Craig Schaaf, Golden Rule Farm
  • Hoophouse/High Tunnel Soil Fertility Management, John Biernbaum, MSU Horticulture,  MOFFA
  • How the National Organic Program Certification and Food Safety Certification are (and are not) Complementary, Vicki Morrone, Organic Farming Specialist, MSU Center For Regional Food Systems
  • Keep The Quality: Post-Harvest Handling for Vegetable Farms, Atina Diffley, farmer and author of Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works
  • Market Strategies That Work for You, Atina Diffley, farmer and author of Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works
  • Make Your Produce Stand a Destination by Cultivating Multiple Mushroom Species, Joe Krawczyk  and Mary Ellen Kozak, Field & Forest Products
  • Movements Toward Food Sovereignty in Native American Communities, Dan Cornelius, Intertribal Agriculture Council
  • Organic and Middle-aged: Ecological Succession as a Model for Growth on an Organic Farm, Lee Arboreal, Eaters’ Guild Farm
  • Reducing Fossil Fuel Use in Vegetable Production, Peter Robertson, Agropraxis Farm at Tillers International
  • Selling at Market, Christina Carson, Traverse City’s Sarah Hardy Farmers Market, FarmRaiser Campaign Coordinator; Jess Piskor, Bare Knucle Farm
  • Selling Into New Markets and Food Hubs: Boot Camp for Financial and Food Safety Success for Small Farmers, Marty Gerencer, Morse Marketing; Nic Welty, Nine Bean Rows LLC; Gary Matteson, Vice President, Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach; Joe Colyn, Originz; Chad Gerencer, Program Associate of Sustainable Systems, Morse Marketing Connections; Natasha Lantz, Marquette Food Co-Op, Co-lead of the UP Food Exchange; Phil Tocco, MSU Extension, Jackson Co.; Rich Pirog, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
  • Small Farm Ergonomics: Tools and Techniques for the Small Farm, Craig Schaaf, Golden Rule Farm
  • Small Scale Hop Production, Joel Mulder and Brian Tennis, The Michigan Hop Alliance
  • Land Access + Small Scale Poultry for Direct Markets, Ben Brown, Sonny’s Farm
  • Soil Water Management and Conservation, John Biernbaum, MSU Horticulture,  MOFFA; Carolyn Lowry, MSU Horticulture,  MOFFA
  • Two Generations Deep Into Sustainability, Patty Cantrell, Healthy Living Alliance; John Ikerd, University of Missouri Columbia  
  • Using Technology for Production and Conservation on the Small Farm, David Coveyou, Coveyou Scenic Farm

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

ISLAND programs: supporting beginning farmers

It is hard starting a farm. Land is expensive, and loans are hard to get without farm management experience. But farm managerial positions are few and far between. 

Farm incubator programs help beginning farm entrepreneurs establish a business by providing resources like land, shared equipment, and business consultation.

ISLAND's innovative new farmer residency program is a farm business incubator located at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy's Maple Bay Farm. Our goal is to minimize the barriers to farming, building our local foodshed one successful farmer at a time.

“I would love to see an incubator project that allows for independent farmers to come in and pilot their business to be able to build up the capital and take the farm business off site. This type of resource is very hard to find, and being able to work with a program that acts as a stepping stone between doing an internship and becoming a farmer/landowner/business owner is ideal.”  —response to ISLAND’s farmer residency needs assessment

Please support this important work. Donate today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

This is a short letter about practice, and scars.

This is a short letter about practice, and scars.

First, the scar.

I have an indented sliver of moon above my right eye that my friend tells me is called an “idiot mark.” Being marked as an idiot, as I can testify, is an excellent cure for self-importance.

An idiot mark is caused by the recoil of a rifle. (I realize I am taking a risk writing about this, knowing that some of you disagree with the eating of meat, the use of firearms or the taking of life through hunting. I don’t mean to argue that everyone needs to hunt or eat meat, and I agree with Michael Pollen’s mantra: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”) There are two important rules to manage recoil—first, brace the rifle securely against your shoulder, and second, keep a healthy distance between your eye and the rear of the scope. If you fire a rifle without following these rules, the recoil will drive the scope against your forehead with great force. You are now marked.

I got mine while practicing for my first deer hunt, when I was 33. I’ve since learned that I was one of many older folks taking to the woods for the first time. 

Practicing. Because, like most of you, I had been railing against the “litany of catastrophe”—climate change, peak oil, environmental degradation on a massive scale, and the extinction of plants and animals caused by, well, us. Big. Global. Predicaments. It got easy to feel more and more deflated by the challenge and the scale of it all.

But slowly, something changed. 

I began to work in miniature. Me plus a few people. Small, thoughtful projects. Close to home. Any of you who have begun to keep chickens or bees, or planted a few fruit trees, or installed a rain barrel, or organized a meeting or movie or skill swap or speaker, you know exactly what I mean.

This was new territory for me. Like my practice with that deer rifle, I found myself as part of a larger practice—adaptation. I was quietly becoming a more resilient member of my community and my species.
Ecologically, resilience is the capacity to adapt to sudden or severe changes in the ecosystem (like floods, droughts, major storms, shifts in temperature—sound familiar?) Resilient communities can more effectively recover from disruption. 

But it goes beyond that, too, and this is where it gets awesome.

A resilient community doesn’t just mean preparing for and worrying about ecological disruption. It means re-creating communities that honor our connection to small places. That honor working directly with the land through smart, sustainable agriculture. That honor the tools and traditions of the past while forging our own path forward; and that honor the voices of our most creative makers and thinkers.

We created ISLAND to be a small but powerful force in that process of re-creation. We work to be an institution of prototypes—observing, creating and applying countless models of community development and seeing what sticks here, in the woods and water of northwest lower Michigan.

Here’s what the work of re-creating resilient community looks like:
  • The new farmer residency at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s Maple Bay site, helping talented beginning farmers make the leap into full time sustainable agriculture.
  • The Hill House artist residency, now in its fourth year and supporting more kinds of artists than ever with the time and space to make great work.
  • Preservation Station, a canning kitchen on wheels that connects the dots between fresh farm produce, learning new skills, building community and supporting our local food economy.
  • The Chicken Coupe, a mobile, state-licensed chicken processing facility that allows farmers to sell pastured poultry direct to customers.
  • Guilds—enhancing and radically shifting the standard “top-down” workshop model by creating informal networks of mentorship, education, mutual support and economic interconnection.
  • Plus lots of traditional workshops, our role as planning partners and fiduciary of theNorthern Michigan Small Farm Conference (now in Traverse City!) and starters of small school and community gardens around the region. 
We’re moving as a community along a line of learning, somewhere on the edge of what we can begin to practice and what we still need to discover. It’s a remarkable place to be that is at once invigorating and humbling. Confronted by the massive challenges ahead of us, this is where we learn to adapt. But this is no easy task, and before we’re done, we may all sport a few fresh scars.

Please support the work of ISLAND with your year-end contribution. Help us strengthen the bonds of our communities and move, in slow, small, endlessly creative ways, to reshape our ways of living in place.

As I finish writing this, I am also thinking of the doe that, just last night, peeked cautiously out from the red pine, then watchfully stepped out into the last light of the day. I am thinking of how, quiet and hidden, heart racing, I lifted a rifle, braced it firmly on my shoulder and looked (carefully) through the scope.

As for that scar - let’s just call it a “transition mark,” ok?

Brad Kik

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hill House Alumni Update

The Hill House Artist Residency program supports talented emerging songwriters, writers at all stages of their career and non-studio artists with a two to four week stay in a secluded log cabin near East Jordan, Michigan. Artists are provided the time and space to create new work.
Below is a quick update on what some of our past residents have been up to:

Christa Couture
Emerging Musician Alum
September/October 2011
After a spring highlighted by debut tours of Germany, the UK and the Netherlands and top ratings from the British music press, Christa Couture is back on home turf in Canada this fall, following up last autumn’s extremely successful launch tour for The Living Record. The Living Record is a one-of-a-kind album overflowing with a colossal range of tempos and textures, giving voice to the immense spectrum of emotions one experiences while soldiering on through grief.
Learn more at her website:

Esteban del Valle
New York
Non-Studio Artist Alum
August 2010
Esteban will be giving an artist lecture in Grand Rapids at the Kendall College of Art and Design tonight,  November 20th. He will be speaking about his recent film project Viable Option, which is showing, along with one of his paintings, at their gallery.

Brandon and Bethany Foote
Gifts or Creatures
Emerging Musician Alums
August 2011
Gifts or Creatures completed a western tour in August, released their new album in September, and have had, “an incredible run of album release events over the last few months!” Their new album, Yesteryear Western Darkness, is now available from Earthwork MusiciTunes, and CDBaby.

Alec Hershman
Writer Alum
August 2013
This year, Alec was poet-in-residence for a week at Ananda College in Nevada City, California; he received an artist support grant from the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, and his chapbook manuscript The Egg Goes Under was a finalist for the DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press chapbook contest. New poems appeared or are forthcoming in The Laurel ReviewCerise PressCream City Review,The American Poetry Journal, Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Pinch, The Fiddlehead, Blue Mesa Review, The Drunken Boat, Thrush, and Qwerty. His new poetry website

Loren Nosan
Non-Studio Artist Alum
January/February 2013
Loren is living in Philadelphia and attending a post-baccalaureate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Next year she hopes to begin working towards her MFA.

Wendy Spitzer
Felix Obelix
North Carolina
Emerging Musician Alum
January 2013
The video for Every Narrow Burrow Widens, Track #10 from the upcoming Felix Obelix album was shot during Wendy Spitzer's Hill House residency last January. The Ringtone Album was released early this month (and currently charting at the #4 spot on WXDU). You can get a physical CD or digital copy at the Felix Obelix Bandcamp page. 

E.B. Vandiver
North Carolina
Writer Alum
June/July 2011
E.B. Vandiver has had the following stories published since her residency: "Forcing Bowl" in The Kenyon Review in summer 2011, "Safelight" in Ninth Letter in fall/winter 2011/2012, "Limn" in CutBank in spring of 2013. Her story "Lacuna" is forthcoming in the winter issue of The Georgia Review

Special thanks to the Begonia Charitable Foundation for supporting the Hill House.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Breathe Owl Breathe Concert: A Benefit

Friday, November 8, 2013, 7:00pm
East Jordan Civic Center / 201 Main Street in East Jordan
Join independent musicians Breathe Owl Breathe at their hometown of East Jordan for a special concert to benefit ISLAND, as well as Bluestem Farm's subsidized Help Others Eat Well fund. For more information, or call 231-622-5252.
$10 donation. Sponsored by Breathe Owl Breathe, ISLAND, and Bluestem Farm.

Buy tickets in advance hereor at the door.