A Glorious Daytrip for Gardeners

Inspiration springs eternal at Baver Herb Farm, a quiet spot just a stone’s throw from Frankfort. Here, nasturtiums, daylilies and violas are meant to admired as well as eaten. A big, black Lab named Jack gallops among dragonflies and butterflies. And every spot under a shady tree is considered your very own for as long as care to sit there.
The business of Baver Herb Farm is selling plants—more than 200 varieties of edible, medicinal, culinary and decorative herbs, plus native Michigan plants and ground covers are available from Baver’s gardens and greenhouse—but owners Paula Smeltzer and Betsy Richley have a greater mission in mind: "We want people to come and enjoy themselves," says Richley. "We want kids out there running around." They encourage families to come with a picnic, artists to set up easels, photographers to bring a camera. They sum up the purpose of the place on a weathered wooden sign at the entrance: "Grow your dreams with us." Fitting, considering this farm’s legacy.
The land was originally owned by the pair’s great-grandparents, Peter and Marit Baver, who immigrated to the area from Norway 116 years ago. The couple raised strawberries, vegetables and seven kids there, passing down the farm from generation to generation. In recent years its 150 acres—one of the largest undeveloped parcels in Benzie county—overwhelmed granddaughter Pauline Baver, so Smeltzer and Richley (Pauline’s nieces) stepped in to give the farm new life.
They converted one of the two cedar shake barns—both of which were built in classic Norwegian style by their great-grandfather—into a small store brimming with dried herbs and florals, essential oils, books and unique pots, planters and baskets. They offer potting in your own container or theirs, as well as fresh-cut, custom bouquets. Pen and ink drawings by Carl Freeman, tiles by Pat Denison and photography by Patrick Owen, all local artists, round out the creative space.
After much tender loving care from Smeltzer and Richley, the grounds today brim with garden after garden. (Visitors can purchase any number of plantings they like, but know that Baver Herb Farm does not ship, so buy no more than can be hauled home.)
Besides browsing and buying, guests are also welcome to use the grounds for weddings, field trips (student or adult) and garden club get-togethers, as well as classes and seminars. Smeltzer and Richley even offer a few of their own, like terracotta pot painting, basket weaving, deer-proofing your garden or making stepping stones. This summer, Smeltzer hopes to lead a spinning class—she uses the same spinning wheel her great-grandmother brought from Norway. Of course, if you’d rather do nothing at all, except maybe roam amongst the butterflies, loll in the grass or watch the flowers bend in the breeze, Baver Herb Farm is still the spot. Just remember to bring along your dreams.

Getting there:

From U.S. 31 south of Benzonia, take Grace Road (called Love Road on the east side of 31) about four miles west to Baver Road and follow the signs. 231-352-7391. View directions using Google Maps.

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