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‘Blood, sweat and tears’ worth it for one young farmer in Mason County

By: Mitch Galloway, Farm News Media


Mary Campbell’s children will grow up in agriculture. She wouldn’t change a thing.

This beginning farmer left the corporate world in 2022 to start Campbell Crossing Farm in Mason County. Today, the produce farm is Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verified in the farmstead, cropping, and livestock systems.

However, Campbell’s love of agriculture started as a child when her parents told her to put on her Muck Boots and help them tap maple syrup. Although she dreaded it at the time, she now calls them fond memories.

“When we bought this house three and a half years ago, we had no intention of farming full time,” Campbell, a member of Mason County Farm Bureau, told Michigan Farm News. “My husband was commuting from the Grand Rapids area, and it wasn’t sustainable. So, we started looking for a place.”

Campbell and her husband Doug found their place in Ludington, Michigan, where they now grow sweet cherries, peaches, plums, apples, and a variety of small vegetables on seven of the 20 acres.

Besides the orchard, the family owns goats, chickens, ducks, and a woodlot.

“That’s where the path fell,” Mary said. “There's definitely a need in the area where people want fresh fruits and vegetables. We love it here. It's hard work — lots of blood, sweat and tears — but those blood, sweat and tears are worth it more than the work the corporate world offered.”

But to succeed as beginning farmers, the Campbells needed another sign — literally.

“You see a lot of farms around here, and you’re like, ‘What is that?’” Mary said. “I’ve always cared about the environment — about reusing and reducing. The more we got into MAEAP programming, the more we got super excited because we're like, we can get three verifications. It was super easy to get verified, and it was just a no-brainer for us. We get to show people we care about the environment while marketing our farm.”

Started in 1998, MAEAP is a voluntary program that helps farmers adopt cost-effective practices that reduce erosion and runoff into ponds, streams, and rivers. MAEAP technician Andrew Booher helped Campbell Crossing Farm close an abandoned well in 2022.

“Through MAEAP’s cost share, we plugged that well so it’s not in use,” Booher told Michigan Farm News.

“For our district, it’s 50 percent of costs up to $500. We ended up paying the full price through our district’s cost share. All Mary had to do was schedule the appointment, and they came out. We plugged it because: A, they are not going to use it anymore, and B, we don't want anything contaminated for the Campbells’ sake.”

Booher said the couple currently attend conservation workshops to learn more.

“They want to be in this program,” he said. “MAEAP is so beneficial to the new farmer because if they want to do it, they're going to do all the environmental steps necessary to become verified.”

According to Booher, MAEAP’s goal is to reduce risk, which the Campbells are accomplishing.

“We want it to be the most effective and efficient way so that when the farmer puts that white sign out there, it means something,” he said. “It’s not like we just did this to say we got the sign. No, we did it because we reduced the risk.”

Mary said farmers should make the phone call.

“I was from the project management world, and trust me, I've seen things go a lot longer and drawn out than they need to be,” she said. “Well, once we started the process, it was fairly easy.”

Learn more about MAEAP here.

This is the second story in a series of MAEAP articles. Published September 6, 2023 by Michigan Farm News