MSU farm ready to help U.P. gardeners

CHATHAM — The Michigan State Extension’s (MSU) North Farm in Chatham will be starting short garden courses on Sunday, May 21, to help ambitious gardeners and local farmers learn about soil health, insects, organic small grains, and perennial fruit crops.

According to Education Coordinator at North Farm, Abbey Palmer, the courses will provide experts with a “wide range of expertise” on how to make gardens work as well as extend the growing season.

“There’s nothing more inspiring than farmers coming together and learning from each other,” said Palmer.

Palmer explained the North Farm is a part of the MSU Extension, which supports local farmers and their agricultural needs.

“The North Farm is a place where we focus on small, farm business incubators,” said Palmer, adding one of their focuses is to help generational farmers continue to expand their business and keep it running for generations to come.

Two farmers rent out acreage at the farm, noted Palmer, and their produce can be found throughout Marquette and Alger counties.

In addition to helping local farmers, Palmer said she works with local schools to encourage and promote gardening practices. The most recent project Palmer is involved with is a greenhouse at Rapid River Public Schools. Next week, Palmer said she is meeting with the students and staff involved to make sure the placement of the greenhouse is proper and the plastic that covers the house is correct.

The farm also performs research on how to expand the growing season in the U.P. Palmer said because of location and the varying types of soil throughout the region, gardening/farming can be difficult and hard to maintain.

During the courses, participants will partake in five-hour sessions that will be hands-on while also allowing the opportunity for the students to ask questions, said Palmer. The courses will take place on June 4, July 9, and August 13 from 1 to 6 p.m.

In the first session on Sunday, gardeners and farmers alike will be learning all about soil health, including the physical, biological, and chemical aspects.

For the June course, Palmer said participants will be learning about familiar berries, such as raspberries and strawberries, as well as “novel” types like goji berries, which are gaining popularity with market gardeners and farmers alike.

Cost of the courses is $30 per person for each course, or $100 for all four. Farm rate, which is couples or people from the same organization, will receive a discounted rate at $45 for each course or $150 for all four classes.

Palmer said she is excited for the short courses to begin, as well as give the general public a chance to see what the North Farm has to offer.

“I love to show people around the farm,” said Palmer. “We get to learn together and make stuff. It’s a really fun day.”

For more information or to sign-up for the short courses, visit or contact Palmer at or by calling 906-439-5058.