Klug Orchards is the family farm of Kevin & Cathy Klug along with their sons Ben,Dan & Ethan who each have enjoyed various roles in farming their bountiful crops. Arnold & Clara Klug ran the farm till 85 when they transitioned it into his care. Dad Klug passed to his Lord's Heavenly Kingdom Oct of 2014, Mom in June 2015. Now the family knows they are yet looking down with love, and we will surely see them again! For over 60 years they raised 5 children &grew various fresh fruits and vegetables on this same 160 acre farm located on beautiful rolling hills in southwestern Berrien County, Mich. Though each of their 5 children had enjoyed aspects of farming through the years, only Kevin and his wife Cathy have dedicated both their lives full time to farming since their marriage in 1988. Prior to the Klug families' stewardship of the farm it was a family Dairy, dating to the earliest known platt book of Berrien County in 1842, when the farmhouse was merely the smaller portion of the family's home which still has the original bark log underfloor over hickory and poplar planks of Abraham Lincoln era simple construction. Even the "New addition" 2 story block portion dates to 1908. While technology has changed throughout the years, many simple farming techniques have stayed the same here at the Klug's Orchards; such as the natural grazing of their horses, sheep, cows or chickens on their certified organic pasture, to the old fashioned pull behind metal wheeled 1row "Flinstone" planter used for longer stemmed plants, seeds and bulbs - which could have been drawn by a horse once upon a time. Hand hoeing acres of crops and hand picking of their fresh produce at the peak of ripeness to bring to customers at Farmer's Markets are also timeless traditions that carry on, improved by coverings for weeds, flame torch or mechanical weed elimination.
For over 45 years Kevin's parents had faithfully taken their sweet fruits and vegetables to Benton Harbor's wholesale market and the South Bend, Ind. Farmer's Market where countless families have become more like familiar friends than customers as produce and pleasantries comingled through the years. Kevin and Cathy, also stockholders, sold at the S.B.Market while raising their expanding family, growing field and greenhouse crops as they renovated the old family farmhouse in the center of the farm through the early years of their marriage. Back then, the family's old fashioned Cider Press saw many hours of Dad with Kevin,Cathy and others blending bushels of apples in the Fall to produce fresh, natural Cider. Since then, Mich.Cider has had to be pasteurized, putting the mill to the side, but in 2016 youngest son (now almost 20) may revitalize this equipment ! Springtime kept the two active hauling buckets of Maple sap to be boiled into sweet syrup, & that too is an art available to be "tapped into" yet by the next generation....
When the folks broached their 70's , Kevin realized 2members of the their same family farm selling at the same market was both confusing and counterproductive to the customers and to the atmosphere of the market itself. That is when he and Cathy agreed to launch out to try taking the farm's produce to distant Chicago neighborhood markets in the summers and the parents could spend their golden years tending the S.B.Mkt solely, while Kevin operated their booths through the winters with their apples and squashes etc. 1994 Kevin also took their family farm produce to various distant Illinos markets such as open air 1day markets of : Sat.- Wilmette, Northfield, Nettlehorst, Elk Grove & GreenCity. Tues&Thurs- Federal & Daley Plazas downtown Chicago. Wed.- Highland Pk/ Grays Lake. Sun.-Buffalo Grove, 2&4th Independence Park. Several restaurants also began to purchase our farm produce to incorporate into menu recipes. Kevin & Cathy additionally still donate fresh produce weekly to several area Food Pantrys both locally & in Chicago. The unexpected relationships which have developed at both the South Bend and Neighborhood Illinois markets are the most rewarding aspect of marketing to them- and all because of a simple dedication to carrying on the parents traditions of family farming an providing quality delicious homegrown Michigan foods to people who appreciate their fresh, local, and Organic produce.
In 2009,At 85, the folks implemented the transition of their farm and market customers to Kevin, Cathy and his family to continue steering Klug Orchards into the future. This included adding new apple varieties alongside Honeycrisp and modernizing various growing tools such as compost tea, using a scout to addressing specific needs; diversifying crops adding old heirloom varieties and using more sustainable practices of growing sweet Red Haven peaches, plums, pears, apricots, nectarines,grapes, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, red & black raspberries, as well as tasty multitudes of vegetable crops, herbs &flowers . Achieving USDA Organic Certification for 32 acres of various berries and vegetables in 2010, under Green Organics & adding acreage yearly, 2017 has 110 acres as Organic certified! Food Alliance Certification was also a valuable tool in farm stewardship and they were proud to certify all acres of crops in 2011. MAEAP Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (which mirrors GAP standards but for whole farm/ crops practices vs a targeted individual crop, and authorized/managed through the State Of Michigan) began for whole farm 2013-18 certification for our cropping systems &has been the newest sustainable tool along with MSU class IPM certification and Driftwatch Notification List enrollment, all which the farm are proud to be participating in. Whole Foods Markets, among several whom we also grow for wholesale also has a very stringent grower responsibility verification process we are proud to be inexcellent releationship with in achieving a BETTER Rating from. Improvements are always ongoing here on the family farm, and we hope to modernize our energy utilization as more options become available to us and our goal is the BEST rating which this would then also help to facilitate. Till then , we are proud to partner with other local farmers and cooperate in labor assistance to mutual benefit for all,its just really nice to live where we do with so many great options to help grow what we love the best we can.
Below is just a brief representative sample of the Klug Orchards family and operational examples to better acquaint you.
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their Certificate of Conformance for Organic Farming is Kevin and Cathy Klug of
Klug Orchards, Berrien Center. They achieved Organic Certification after years of implementation and the official verification process.
Out of the farm’s original 160 acres, the Klugs and their sons are now growing 110 acres of Certified Organic yummy market produce of various fruits, berries and assorted herbs& vegetables. Kevin, who had grown crops
alongside his parents Arnold and Clara Klug his whole life, had been accepted into and completed the USDA NRCS “Transitioning to Organic Farming” program
which addresses larger whole farm issues and assists with implementation over a
four year timeline. He continually works with the MSU extension office and Eau Claire
Fruit Exchange in addressing pest and nutrient management. Considering the
hundreds of growers in Southwest Michigan, it is an unique accomplishment to be
among the handful who are certified. Klug attributes
the example of his parents old-fashioned persistence on using less chemicals to
still grow healthy crops as foundational to his organic transition. Kevin further
believes his parents desire to see the family farm transition to the next
generations needed to include old farming practices such as off season manure
spreading as well as newly installed drip irrigation capable of administering
organic micronutrients to individual crops. At this time they have no on-farm
retail sales of their organic produce,but strictly wholesale distribution on farm, tho do take crops as their parents have for
decades directly to various Farmers Markets as well as delivering to local Martins's Supermakets, Whole Foods, and personal CSA membership distribution. Klug also served as an elected member of
the Berrien Township Board and feels that his choices in farming do eventually
affect his local township, so it’s a positive direction for all. Asked about
advice to others who want to grow healthier, sustainable and delicious produce,
Kevin said that every garden and crop is unique but there are great informational
sites online that anyone can access. Certifiers such as Ecocert/Indiana Certified Organic and the USDA Mich.Ag.Environmental Assurance Program have detailed literature on Organic and Sustainable farming. Locally, many stores are starting to
carry a good variety of organic gardening supplies, which are clearly marked OMRI certified for easy identification and every home gardener can use with confidence.