Bear Creek Organic Farm
4012 Atkins Road | Petoskey | 231.340.0104

At Petoskey’s Friday Farmers Market, erstwhile local growers smile behind piles of early fall harvest palette: ochre pie pumpkins, striated squashes, apples, or fragrant black trumpets just plucked from the forest moss. The Bear Creek Organic Farm booth, however, is a sensory immersion at the axis of food and art. No folding tables here. Towering multi-faceted shelves are clearly signed and curated in a tantalizing interplay of color and texture. Organic yellow squashes, silvery, fragrant sage leaves, cascading bunches of kale, and amber jars of honey from the farm’s apiary all conspire to an inviting and abundant vertical market space complete with colorful chalkboard menu and miniature check-out counter. This 15-foot microcosm of a chic Sonoma market is the creation of arts professor Anne Morningstar and her husband, Brian Bates, who own Bear Creek Organic Farm.

Read on for a guide to fall farmers market all-stars in Northern Michigan and an inside look at the art and science of organic farming.

Bear Creek Organic Farm

With respective backgrounds in design and digital media and edible landscape architecture, Anne Morningstar and Brian Bates met, married and moved to Petoskey where they pounced on 75 prime acres on Atkins Road and proceeded to launch a certified organic farm. We sit down at the farmhouse table with Anne and Brian to get the skinny on organic farming, learn their artful market approach and get an easy recipe for pumpkin curry.

What’s the reality of being committed to organic farming practices?

We felt that organic farming was getting a bad rap for being expensive and we weren’t convinced that it was really more expensive to produce or that much more work. This approach is about working with nature rather than against it. We had aphids on our kale so we released 35,000 ladybugs last week. There are sprays to control aphids, even organic sprays, but by cultivating the ecosystem we have a clean, sustainable solution.

Why does organic matter?

If it’s grown well, organic produce tastes much better because the farmer is working with the whole spectrum of the plant’s life. Also, the checks and balances required for maintaining organic certification require farmers to really think of farms as businesses, which allows them to be sustainable livelihoods in their communities.

There are farm market booths and then there’s your farm market booth. What’s the secret?

Anne: I get to take my design/animation background and give people real time experiential art with food. We’re on Instagram constantly and talking to other farmers around the country to learn what’s working. Everything in the booth is deliberate from the vertical orientation of the displays to the way the colors and textures of the produce interact with each other so that we can make our food look as delicious and inviting and exciting as possible.

Brian: We want to normalize local food, and for that our small space needs to be convenient and resonate as a store.

What’s an easy meal to make with our fall farm market bounty?

Pie pumpkins are an underutilized delight. In our house pumpkin apple curry is a staple and it’s really easy.

Directions: Cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and put it cut side down in a baking dish with enough water to cover the edges and bake it at 300 degrees until the inside is soft. In the meantime sauté a diced onion, two cloves of garlic and one or two diced apples in butter until they’re soft and season them with salt, pepper and curry powder to taste. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh into a soup pot, add the apple/onion/garlic mixture and pour in equal parts chicken stock and whole milk. The consistency is determined by how much liquid you add. Let it simmer on low heat until the flavors combine, season with salt and pepper, serve over rice.

photo-by-nicole-steffen_mynorth-mediaOn the Road:

Sink your teeth into harvest season’s last hurrah with early fall produce and pastured proteins from these standout stalls at local farmers markets.

Grand Traverse/Leelanau Counties

Second Spring Farm, 231.944.8946

Loma Farm, 970.217.5904

Kalkaska County

Lost Lake Farm, 231.709.7203

Charlevoix/Antrim Counties

Big Medicine Ranch, 231.463.8836

Bluestem Farm, 231.459.8968

Emmet County

Coveyou Scenic Farm Market, 231.348.1278

Pond Hill Farm, 231.526.3276

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Photo(s) by Bear Creek Organic Farm