New generation tills family farm

Published 2:50 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blue Star Produce represents the new generation of the small family farm.

The farm has 20 tillable acres, located off Mandron Lake Road just outside of Buchanan, and originally produced white grapes and peaches. In 2007, Mark Collins, who grew up on the farm, along with his wife, Jennifer, made the decision to grow heirloom vegetables.

They grow more than 100 varieties of the fresh, sometimes rare, produce known collectively as heirloom. They grow more than 20 varieties of tomatoes and expect to harvest approximately 60,000 pounds of the favorite summer fruit.

“When you look at the genetic diversity of original heritage crops the first advantage is the wide variety,” Collins said. “One or two may not bear up under certain conditions, so there is more of a chance of having a crop in diversity rather than in a monoculture.

“Another reason is when you look at indigenous cultures around the world in agriculture and in history; they select superior features and breed a superior plant. They would still leave the heritage, indigenous plants growing at the edge of the fields so they would cross pollinate.”

Collins and his wife gather seeds from their heritage plants each year for the following year’s plantings. It’s arduous work, but it is the food the couple wants for their young and growing family, which includes William, 2, and 5-month-old Naomi.

Collins understands the issues surrounding natural versus chemical-based farming. The original farm did use chemicals and, as a student in agriculture at Andrews University, he has studied the pros and cons of each method. While there are many interesting new technologies on the horizon, most are not cost-effective for the small family farm.

For now, all the heritage produce is hand-picked. Collins explains heritage fruits and vegetables have much thinner skins and would not survive automated harvesting.

This year, Blue Star Produce offers not only regular CSAs, but has added a special tomato CSA that will provide participants with five pounds of the luscious varieties for a solid eight weeks.

In addition, Blue Star Produce frequents a number of area farm markets, including Buchanan and St. Joseph’s, each Saturday. Once the crops begin to come in more abundantly, they will also open a self-serve stand on Mandron Lake Road.

The couple is active with the Purple Porch Co-op in South Bend and is participating in the first Check-Please Festival to be held at Round Barn Winery on Labor Day weekend. For more details, visit and click on “Events.”

For more information about Blue Star Produce, visit or call (269) 697-0231.