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Rising Pheasant Farms | Detroit, Michigan

Rising Pheasant Farms is a for-profit, agricultural, family-run business owned by husband and wife Carolyn Leadly and Jack VanDyke. Carolyn is the farm manager, and Jack oversees accounting and is the distribution manager. It all started in 2009 in their attack. Now they serve a host of Detroit restaurants and farmer’s markets. They specialize in growing microgreens and shoots. “We use organic practices, but we’re not certified, and there are lots of people like that.” A unique part of their business model is that they deliver by bicycle only, which is a fundamental part of Carolyn and Jack’s emphasis on sustainability and supporting the environment. 

Jack and Carolyn grew inspired to get into the urban horticulture business because they both had been in the scene for a number of years prior. Their company name is a testament to East Detroit. Jack and his wife watched “pheasants around the city, and we’re like, oh, they’ve found something in the forgotten urban environment. We thought that was a pretty good metaphor for what we were trying to do with our farm. In some ways, the city’s attitude towards urban AG is still the same as it was back then. And in some ways, it has grown or changed over the years. We’ve gotten tons of support from the community. The gardening community in the city and an Eastern Market here are very amenable to having a variety of different growers.” Hence, the Rising Pheasant Farm (RPF) was born.

Talk about Thrifty!

This couple turned a spare bedroom into a full-blown Walkin cooler for just $600. “Using the proper insulation, a small air-conditioning unit, and rigging a thermostat to override the air-conditioner’s thermostat, they can reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit.” In addition, Carolyn and Jack reaped the benefits of their contributions to the community. The Go Get funding account they set up to raise funds for Solar panels reached $10,000 – roughly half of the actual cost.

I met Jack at one of the largest and most historic farmers’ markets in the United States – Detroit Eastern Market celebrated its 131st anniversary this year. Vendors that grow their products get the most favorable terms there. Jack handles the farmers’ markets, making him the face of the company. Rising Pheasant Farm’s products are always fresh, picked within the last 24 hours, making them a prime choice for shoppers. He was very helpful and gave shout outs to fellow farmers that also use organic practices at the market every Saturday: 

Ron, Stadler Farms 
• The Stadler family has been farming since 1896. In the cropping category, they received Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) recognition in March of 2019 in the cropping category. MAEAP is a voluntary program that helps Michigan farmers adopt cost-effective practices that reduce runoff into streams, ponds, and rivers. 
Hampshire Farms 
• Hampshire Farms is a certified organic, small-scale family farm from Kingston, Michigan. They have been around since 1896, and they specialize in grains and edible dry beans. Hampshire Farms grows 10-20 acres of vegetables, raises pastured chickens, and sells certified organic eggs. 
Vince, Give and Grow Mushrooms  
• Give and Grow Mushrooms strive to produce local, sustainable foods to guarantee the customer the freshest fungi within 100 miles of Chesterfield, Michigan. 
White Lotus Farms
• The idea for the White Lotus businesses evolved organically more than a decade ago with members of the Tsogyelgar Buddhist Community. They explored ways to live creatively and enjoyed working in the community collective kitchen garden. Trial and error served a prime environment where they educated themselves on the best organic gardening methods. White Lotus became a certified organic bakery and creamery in 2011.
Jack’s Take on Eastern Market, Detroit 
Sometimes referred to as the “Little Italy” of Detroit, Eastern Marke is the largest open-air market district in the United States, hosting more than 150 vendors. Jack gave me his lowdown on the scene; “There are many stories of people around the state driving like hours in some cases to be here every week because Easter market is kind of a big legacy market.” Initially, the market was only selling wood and hay. However, in 1891, it moved from Cadillac Square to the northeast side of downtown Detroit where you can find everything from essential oils to microgreens. 
“I think you’re starting to see a lot of people who are basically just selling and showing up here as resellers. Even still, it tends to be kind of a mom-and-pop reseller thing. All these funny little warehouses all around the market, each of whom probably has somebody at the market. You know, and what you see here is a tiny fraction of the stuff that happens at Eastern Market. Most of the action occurs from midnight to 7 am on pallets all night long, seven days a week. The Saturday market is like the retail experience. There used to be four of these in the city. And like everything else, Detroit also has an abandoned farmer’s market. But that used to be one of the four sheds like this. It is a super fascinating story. We are so lucky to be a part of it.”

What to Expect from RPF this Spring

“We’ve got radishes, different kinds of greens, head lettuce, we’ll do a lot of tomatoes and other seasonal stuff in the summer. We’re trying to get better about storage crops to have a lot of stuff ready for the markets this time of year. Like some of the growers who have large volumes of storage crops, that’s good planning. They have stuff they could do during the season and then kind of carries them through the offseason. So we hope to get there too.”