From farm to fork: Local family embraces natural, sustainable living

MANISTEE COUNTY — As Mindy Sedelmaier says, if you raise a few chickens you will soon want a whole flock, and eventually, that will grow into an entire homestead complete with pigs, gardens and everything in between.

At least for the Sedelmaiers, that’s how it all happened. Now the family lives “farm to fork,” raising nearly everything on their own and sustaining themselves by living off the land.

Mindy and Phil Sedelmaier’s homestead is established out in the rural beauty of Northern Michigan on Adamson Lake Road in Kaleva, with five acres of land on their own lot.

However, the Sedelmaiers also farm on the 80 acres around their home — owned by Jim and Tammy Sedelmaier — and farm 15-20 acres of their son Justin’s 100 acres. They also run an operation with their son making fresh maple syrup.

The two grow a number of crops, raise chickens, barter and trade goods with neighbors, and are soon expanding their livestock next spring.

“Chickens are the gateway, and that’s true,” said Mindy. “I just wanted a few chickens for enjoyment, and that opened the door to having a bunny, a cat, a dog, pigs, the whole homestead. It really has multiplied.”

For Mindy and Phil, the transition to growing and raising their own food was merely to be more sustainable, healthy and know where their food is sourced.

“We wanted to be more natural and healthier,” said Mindy.

A full farm

The Sedelmaiers, who are well-known in Manistee County, have combined years of experience with farming. The home they live in today was Phil’s birth place and where he grew up, while Mindy lived just three miles away.

Raising two children, Brooke and Justin, the Sedelmaiers now have grandchildren, as well, who are also learning their lifestyle.

“I was born and raised on a farm, and there were five of us kids,” said Mindy. “My husband worked on a farm, so we had that basic knowledge already.”

It all started with chickens, then grew into raising anything from bitter greens, grapes, sunflowers and even corn.

“We’ve had chickens off and on for about 15 years or more, and then we started doing bitter gardens, orchards, canning and all of that stuff,” she said. “We started that in the last five years. We wanted to create, for the most part, a place where we can be self-sustainable.”

The Sedelmaiers dabble in a number of specialty practices like butchering their own meat, growing food for livestock and deer, and they even run a fishing charter business.

“We dabble,” Mindy said. “We do a lot of farming of wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat and not only feeding our animals, but also the deer and wildlife.”

The family had swine in the past, and recently started butchering their own livestock. In the future, Mindy and Phil plan to add cows and raise more swine.

While others send their livestock to the butcher, Mindy said butchering on the homestead allows for more control of the final product, and it pays to know it was all done on the farm.

“I do not eat pork out of a store,” said Mindy. “I don’t like the smell of it, look, texture, but when we processed our pigs last year it was amazing the difference. I actually enjoyed eating pork. It had a flavor that was different.”

Mindy’s flock of chickens is also growing.

Currently, she has 20 different types in her coop, and she knows each one by its breed and characteristics, making for a unique selection for both eggs and meat.

She said her chickens are free range, which brings a better taste and quality.

“One of the biggest differences is the taste,” she said, while cracking open a few fresh eggs into a dish for display. “Free range is healthier, and the yolks are a darker color. The chicken, if you butcher it, has much more flavor than what you purchase in grocery store.”

Something new

Despite the long hours on the farm, Mindy said in recent years they took on a whole new project — beekeeping.

“The funny thing is that I am allergic to bees,” Mindy joked, as she opened the lid to her thriving hive of honeybees. “Reading more about how much better your crops do with bees was really a point for us in doing the more holistic, natural stuff.”

Phil and Mindy attend beekeepers meetings to expand their knowledge. They have two hives right at home, and more are set up on their son’s land.

“We have more crops than ever with the bees — they are great,” Mindy said. “We’ve had the bees four years now. So we don’t know much in the grand scheme of things. Every spring we order more (honeybees) to add, and build more hives.”

Mindy said, outside of their full-time jobs, work on the farm never ends, but they always make sure the food is plentiful and the animals are fed.

“Our freezer is pretty much always full between frozen vegetables, fruits, venison, pork and we do a lot of canning,” she said. “Not just fruits and vegetables, but we also can meats. We do not have enough freezer space.”

The family has a zero waste policy, using everything down to the very last eggshell.

“It’s important for us to be efficient,” said Mindy. “The fruit that drops on the ground, chickens will eat. We save eggshells, dry them and feed them back to the (hens) because it’s calcium they need for stronger shells.”

A bright future

While the family is full-force at harvesting and making syrup and honey, growing crops and raising animals, Mindy said they are always ready to start a new project.

The winter months, she said, are perfect for planning.

From bears to other wildlife compromising their supply of food and livestock, Mindy said living from the land is all about trial and error. At times, she said, there’s a learning curve.

“With failures come more successes, because we had our share of failures and we learned something each time,” she said.

“We also get a little better for the next time. That’s what we hope to continue to do.”

The Sedelmaiers plan to continue to expand their farm and home in the future, and as Mindy put it, this is only the start to their journey in living a natural lifestyle, right at home.

“There’s nothing better than sitting on your deck in the evening and watching your hard work,” Mindy said. “When you open the jar or bag for dinner, it’s knowing that you raised it. It’s more rewarding; it’s a lot of work, so I think you appreciate it more.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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