Looking back, looking ahead…

I was thinking the other day about how long our family has been on this farm. And how long this farm has supported our family. Two things that I guess go hand in hand. The Moelker family has been selling farm products here for over 111 years. That always amazes me!

When my Grandpa, John Moelker first came to the Grand Rapids area from the Netherlands, he started with a small dairy farm near Breton road. He had a milk route, peddling dairy products through the streets of that area. A few years later, when he moved out to where the Moelker farm is today, he continued selling milk, but added fruits and vegetables to the mix. John even grew grapes and made communion wine for some of the local churches. All of this provided the income to raise 10 children here!

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A load of fresh peaches!

When my father, Jim Moelker took over and continued the farming operation, he too sold his produce here on the farm. He also went to the Fulton Street Market in Grand Rapids. I can remember when I was a kid, he would leave early in the morning on market days, and not return until suppertime. Some days were good, and he would sell out and be home early. Other days he would come home with much of his produce left. Occasionally I would get to go with him to the market. It was an adventure for me to go to the big city! It was work for him.

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Jim, far right, at the market

In the early 1970’s, Dad decided to focus on selling to the public right here on the farm. He quit going to the market in town and built a refrigerated apple storage room with a place to sell from in the front of the building. No more travelling back and forth on market days. Now he could sell every day to  customers who came to the farm. My mother, Donna became a big part of the on farm market as well. Customers came out to get fresh cherries, peaches, pears and apples right from the farm. Mom was a great source of information on how to use that fruit, telling people how to freeze, can, make pies, applesauce and desserts. We also supplied several area grocery stores with fresh fruit to pass on to their customers.

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The new apple storage building! 1970

My wife Bonnie and I, along with our children have worked for years now to continue the Moelker family business. It is such a rewarding experience getting to know so many of you, and helping you enjoy the fruits of our labor. Pun intended! Some of you have just discovered Moelker Orchards, but others of you were  coming here before I was born! We know that without all of you, our friends and customers, Moelker Orchards would not be what it is today. You are a blessing to us!

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So this week Saturday, we want to show our appreciation to all of you. It is our annual Customer Appreciation Day. Come in and visit with us. Enjoy a cold cup of cider and a fresh warm donut “on the house.” Several products will be on sale, including our handmade pies. But most of all, just come in to say “Hi.” We will all be here to thank you for your support for us over the years. God willing, we will continue these friendships for years to come!

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker     tompic

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. The word brings with it a hundred different memories. Flashes of times past, aromas of expansive and sumptuous dinners. Gatherings of family and relatives for a once a year celebration. Just the memories alone are something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving for me is a time of reflection. Maybe it is for all farmers. Because just as the first Thanksgiving dinner long ago was a grateful celebration of God’s gifts of harvest and life itself, a farmer still sees it that way. At least this one does. It is a time for me and my family to count the many blessings we have, and to replay the ups and downs of the past growing season and harvest. Another year has past. Another crop is in. The most recent occurrence in this annual cycle has been the completion of another season of gathering in the crops. That in itself inspires thanks. Another crop, another gift and reward  for our labors. It is easy to be thankful in times like this.

It is tougher to be thankful when things are not as they should be. Sometimes the crop isn’t as bountiful. Sometimes it doesn’t come in at all. Sometimes our health is not what it should be. A relationship has been fractured, or is on a rocky path. Or a loved one will not be at the table this year, taken from us much too soon. In times like this our thanks, if we can even find it, comes through tears. Sometimes giving thanks is hard work.

But God is gracious, and we don’t have to look far to find reasons for thanksgiving. The friends and family that surround us. The joyful giggle of a child, playing a goofy game they have played with you a hundred times before. Or watching your grown children make good decisions as they jump into adult life. Sometimes our blessings are as big and obvious as the world itself. Sometimes they seem to be few and far between. But the truth is, no matter what our situation is in life, we all have reason to be thankful. Whether our “crop” is bountiful or seemingly scarce, our Creator walks with us through the harvest. And as another season comes to an end, we can be sure He will go with us through all the seasons of our lives.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving! (and a fruitful week too!)

Tom Moelker

Looking back.

Our farm has been in the family for 110 years as of 2017. That is a long time. It makes me wonder what Grandpa John Moelker would say if he could see the farm now. In some ways it is the same. The house, the lay of the land, the Grand River winding lazily across the west end of the farm. I’m sure some of it would still be familiar to him. Other things, of course would be vastly different from the farm he worked and knew well.

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The relationship between a farmer and his farm is an amazing thing. I often compare it to a person and his or her back yard, only bigger. You know where the weeds are in your lawn, which plants flower and when, and how much that one tree has grown since you moved in. You remember where Billy used to jump off the swing set, and where Susie would hide in the corner of the lot when she was angry. Each square foot of space holds a memory if you have lived somewhere for a long time.  For me it is the same, only on a larger scale. Since I have spent so many years on this farm, seeing most or all of it every day, subtle changes stand out to me and memories are everywhere.

 

We pushed out an orchard this year that was planted in 1975. I was 15 years old then. Which means that for most of my life since then, those trees have been under my care. And though it sounds crazy, each of those trees had its own characteristics that I could relate. That one tipped over in the early ’80’s during a hard wind and rain storm. This one, for some reason always produced apples that didn’t get very red. Those two trees always get ripe a few days before the rest. That tree, when it started bearing, was not a Red Delicious like it was suppose to be. It was an Early Blaze. Mislabeled at the nursery that sold it to us. On and on it goes. And it isn’t just trees and orchards that trigger these familiar thoughts. Places on the farm bring up memories too. That hollow tree in the woods that has had raccoons living in it for as long as I can remember. I was standing right here when I shot my first deer. Dad once got his tractor so stuck right here that it took every thing we had to pull it out. We laughed later, much later. It wasn’t funny then. I jumped out of the truck here once to try to stop a runaway wagon before it hit some apple trees. The wagon stopped on it’s own. The truck, however, was not in neutral when I bailed out, and it proceeded to mow down two apple trees before it stopped. I still can’t laugh about that one. The look on Dad’s face? Well let’s just say I didn’t say much the rest of that day!

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My dad ran this farm for a lot of the 110 years. And Grandpa did too, in the years before that. I’m sure that each of them had their own stories and ideas about interesting spots all over the farm. Funny how one piece of land can, over the years, evoke so many memories, good and bad. I think sometimes that if Grandpa, Dad,and I could sit down together and talk about the farm it would be an amazing conversation. I get tears in my eyes just picturing that scene. So many years of observations, memories and changes. Yet even after 110 years, some of it is still the same. And each day I add more thoughts and memories. Just like you do, in your back yard.

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker