MSU Product Center recognizes Hallstedt Homestead Cherries with Best Barrier Buster Award

Despite challenges, this northern Michigan cherry farm survives and thrives.

For decorative purposes.
Photo Credit: Beryl Striewski.


Revitalizing a decrepit orchard near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan would be the first barrier Phil and Sarah Hallstedt would face in their unlikely ‘mid-life’ pursuit to follow their dreams, move north, and begin fruit farming. It would turn into years of clearing land, amending the soil and planting, mixed with blood, sweat and a few tears (literally and figuratively) before the property yielded a crop.

Along the way, the Hallstedts’ original business plan to sell wholesale cherries met a variety of roadblocks, ranging from international trade disputes to seasonal labor shortages, which motivated the novice growers to find another way to do business. They discovered their fresh fruit was a premium value-added product, especially when it was uniquely packaged and direct shipped. Later, the Hallstedts would diversify their farm operation by including agritourism experiences in the form of ‘u-pick,’ direct sales, as well as adding flowers and seasonal wreaths to the products offered.  

Understanding rules and regulations focusing on agritourism is a common concern for many Michigan growers wanting to pursue such value-added opportunities. Simply determining ‘who has jurisdiction over what’ can be a challenging process. After doing their own homework, the Hallstedts began to have conversations about their operation with their local township officials, as well as soliciting input from local growers, Michigan State University Extension staff and the Michigan Agritourism Association. As is often the case, there was a need for dialogue about the broadening definition of the agricultural industry and what it takes to sustain it.

During the farm’s expansion process, the Hallstedts gained a repository of knowledge on the topics of licensing, rules and regulation, and local zoning ordinances. Due to their own experience, the Hallstedts began to break down potential barriers and direct their focus towards making their on-farm experiences more accessible and inclusive – while also staying true to the three core values of their business: land, access, and joy. To do this, the Hallstedts worked with the Disability Network of Northern Michigan’s Thomas Hoxie who helped them develop a thoughtful approach to farm visitors with a variety of sensory abilities. Their work in this area resulted in an invitation to speak at the 2022 International Workshop on Agritourism and the 2022 Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo.

The Hallstedts’ long relationship with the MSU Product Center has given them access to Michigan State University researchers, packaging experts, planners, and business consultants. Most recently, MSU Extension staff has assisted the Hallstedts for more than two years in their pursuit of expanded agritourism activities on their farm, with a primary focus on positioning four “glampsites” for farm stays on the property. If this additional venture does move forward, it will be a credit to the Hallstedts’ ability to adapt and create new strategies to sustain their farm. Nevertheless, these serial entrepreneurs will continue to leap over and break through barriers - it is just what they do!

MSU Product Center

Diversifying a farm or food business brings rewards and potential challenges. In making these strategic decisions, consider partnering with Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s Product Center. The MSU Product Center is an organization that brings together on-campus expertise in the sectors of food, agriculture, and natural resources to help entrepreneurs define and launch innovative products. Field-based innovation counselors advise entrepreneurs on business planning, regulatory requirements, and product development needs. To access business development assistance, select the request counseling tab on the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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