» Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Interview
Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Interview
Ken DeCock, who along with brother Bob and up to 12 seasonal employees operates Boyka’s on 23 Mile Road in Macomb Township, pauses long enough before the selling season gets under way to talk about the advantages of shopping at farm markets this season...
Tell us about your property.
Grandpa bought the first 38 acres in 1954. At the time, my dad and his two brothers were farming with their parents near Dodge Park and 16 Mile roads. IN 1960, the parents sold the farm and helped each son start up their own. My dad took over the property on 23 Mile Road and built the buildings on it. In 1984, we had a chance to purchase 40 acres adjacent to us. Overall, we farm most of our 78 acres plus another 40 that we rent nearby.
When did your market open? How did you get started?
Until about 30 years ago, we grew fruits and vegetables and sold them wholesale. Back then, we were in “the boonies” and there wasn’t much traffic up our way. After Lakeside Mall was opened and subdivisions were coming in, we started seeing a lot more cars pass by! We decided to build a little roadside stand – wagons with tops on them - just to see what would happen. Two years later, we built a barn and put in a little parking lot and here we are today.
In the beginning, we sold only fruits and vegetables. From my way of thinking, farming was supposed to be about supplying people with food, not about growing flowers. But bit by bit, I began to see more flowers at Eastern Market and realized there was another market we ought to try and tap into. We started selling flowers in about 1987.
Selling bedding plants like flowers and vegetables and also hanging baskets directly to consumers is an important part of your business. What percentage of your annual income is derived from this first wave of business for the season?
About 50 percent of our farm income is from the bedding plants. Of that, we sell approximately 70 percent directly to the consumer. So yeah, people stopping by to shop with us is very important. We sell the rest of the crop wholesale to landscaping companies. The other 50 percent of our overall farm income is from selling produce. We grow tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelon, zucchini and hard squash. We also offer three varieties of sweet corn: bi-color, yellow and white.
What are the advantages of buying directly from the grower as opposed to a retailer?
When you visit Boyka’s, or any other of the great farm markets throughout the county, you are buying plants that have been treated with tender loving care. We carefully select the types of plants we will grow; plant the seeds; and make sure they get the right nutrients and water. They aren’t shipped halfway across the country; I transport them to our stand in a wagon. I do this because I have a big investment in my seeds and I want to protect that but also, I want my customers to be happy and keep coming back year after year.
When it comes to produce, you can’t beat fresh from the farm. Our produce is picked fresh everyday. Here’s a little secret: there are more than a hundred different varieties of corn grown for human consumption. Each farm chooses what variety it will grow based on where it will be sold. For instance, the best tasting corn cannot be machine picked and does not stay fresh for very long. Obviously, you aren’t going to find this variety of corn in the average supermarket. Corn from a farm stand tastes better because it was grown for its flavor, not necessarily its shelf life.
You are also going to find very knowledgeable people at the market. We can tell you what will be coming in new next week, how to cook butternut squash or what tomatoes are best for canning. Don’t think you can put up 40 jars of strawberry preserves? We can also give you a quick and easy recipe your whole family will love. And, if we don’t have the answer for you, some other shopper probably does. At a farm market, everyone is happy to share their food preparation tricks with you.
Of all the choices for flower beds, planters or hanging baskets, which is your favorite plant? Why?
A fuchsia in a hanging basket is my favorite. They are a very beautiful and flashy plant. But, they are fussy and tend to drop their petals all over the place. A fuchsia needs to be kept out of direct midday sun (but early morning or late afternoon is okay), protected from the wind and watered as soon as it begins to dry out.
What would someone without a green thumb have the most success with? Petunias are a very hardy plant that comes in several shapes and many colors. They can stand direct sun, cold weather, and general abuse and, they keep blooming all summer.
Boyka’s is located on 23 Mile Road between Romeo Plank and Card Rd. There are many places throughout Macomb where you can deal directly with the grower.
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