First-generation farmers find a home in Northern Michigan. Meet Aaron and Mary Brower of Bluestem Farm.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

Aaron and Mary Brower met in Juneau, Alaska, when they both worked at a trails program for at-risk youth. A few years later (in the frigid depths of February), they moved to a small village three hours northeast of St. Petersburg, Russia, where they got their start in cold-weather farming. Then there was an organic raw-milk dairy farm in New England. And a chapter spent living on a sailboat in New York City.

In 2012, after a decade spent traveling the world together, the Browers decided it was time to put down roots. They landed in Michigan, where Aaron had grown up, purchasing 80 acres in East Jordan that had been left fallow for decades. The property was first settled by Czech immigrants in the late 1800s, who had built a home and farmed the land for 60 years. The family cleared the property of its ironwood, hemlock, beech and maple forest to establish a pasture; some of those massive beams still support the barns the Browers use today.

mary and aaron brower standing in a field, summer

Photo by Dave Weidner

aaron brower of bluestem farm bending over a row of produce in the field

Photo by Dave Weidner

Over the last decade, Aaron and Mary have transformed the property back into a four-season working farm. The name, Bluestem, is inspired by a grass native to the Midwest that’s known for its deep root system, some reaching down to 8 feet. The duo grows certified organic vegetables—beets, cabbage, chard, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, carrots, tomatoes, the list goes on—and raises chickens and pigs on pasture.

Their vegetable and protein subscriptions (similar to a CSA) are offered in a range of sizes—from an extra small vegetable box for one-person households to a large pork share that may come with a roast and brats one month or a package of ribs and breakfast sausage the next—and you always get to choose what you want. Or swing by the farm store for meat and veg, along with local goods like maple syrup, handmade soaps and dried bouquets.

drone shot of bluestem farm, crop rows, buildings, forest, summer

Photo by Dave Weidner

The Blue Plate Project: Aaron and Mary have partnered with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan to identify people in the community in need of food. Nurses, social workers and clinicians refer families and individuals to the farm, where they can get free subscriptions. Learn more or donate:

Bluestem Farm
4218 M-32, East Jordan

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner