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Oakland's last farmers


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"It's like a whole different world to me," Scramlin said. "I didn't even realize something like that was available, and I have pretty good roots in agriculture."

Catherine Genovese, who operates Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm with her husband, Frank, started their 30-acre Oxford farm in 1977. The farm grows about 18 acres of various evergreen trees, and was the first tree farm in the state to install a drip-irrigation system. In 2003, they started offering living Christmas trees, which are potted trees standing just under 6-feet tall.

"The farmer we bought it from had an egg operation and grew his own corn to feed the chickens. He sold the eggs locally and had been there since the 1930s," Catherine Genovese said. "Working in the city, we had a keen interest in not living in a subdivision. We wanted to live on some land, and eventually, for it to be productive and do something good with the land. Tree farming, for us, was a good fit. We've been at it now for a long time, and have a very popular farm now and are very proud."

Both Frank and Catherine Genovese are board members with the Oakland County Farm Bureau, as is their son, Michael, who serves as the bureau's Young Farmer Chair.

"Even when we started, Oakland County had already changed quite a bit from the large farming operations," Catherine Genovese said. "Farming in Oakland County is a little different than other counties. I think you're going to see a lot of young people that are very interested in starting a new farming endeavor, but because of the cost of land and limited supply of parcels of land, I think you're going to find a smaller, more concentrated growing operation. Not large crops, but niche crops, like certain vegetables or organic vegetables for certain plants. They might do farmers markets, rather than selling far and wide. But sometimes it takes more work for the small guy who does a lot by hand, rather than the large guy who uses a tractor for 100 acres of crops."

Matt Scramlin also said that the acreage of a farm doesn't necessarily represent the amount of revenue a farm will produce. Many of the people working in agriculture in Oakland County aren't doing what many people would consider traditional farming, but they are making a living off the land, regardless.

"Most don't think of a greenhouse grower as a farmer, but we do," he said. "They are still growing things. You can't tell how big a farm is by it's acreage. I've seen 5-acres of tomatoes that do as much as 100 acres of corn. So, here, we do some things that aren't as much land based, but still have profitability."

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Tags: LONGFORM

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