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I visited Mark Shepard's farm two Thanksgivings ago, thank goodness

 
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Location: Elberta, MI
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I'll never forget it. I was visiting a friend in Madison, WI, and we read an article about chestnuts, my favorite, in the New York Times, and since Mark's farm was relatively close we pilgrimaged out there. It was a gray day and there was an eerie sound of a wind turbine on another nearby farm as we walked up the road, wondering if it was OK to do that. The place is on the crest of a hill. My friend was like, is this really it? But it was soon clear that we were surrounded by chestnut, hazelnut, apple, and tons of other food-giving trees in various states of maturity, including a lovely ring of ashes. Then we saw Mark himself coming out of a shed that had a rather conspicuously dead cow's head mounted over the doorway. Awesome. He was very friendly, told me about his tough love chestnut revivification system, and I ordered several sets of hazelnuts and chestnuts (hybrid and american) as soon as I could scrounge up the money. I planted everything this spring in my village backyard. We proceeded to have a terrible drought year, like a lot of people. I disobeyed orders and babied them just a bit. i think I gave them all extra water two or three times. By fall it seemed that about 60 percent of the hazels had made it, and only one of the chestnuts. (I gave some of my chestnuts to another friend who proceeded to not plant them grrrr.) We're all hoping for a better year, needless to say. Northern Michigan lost 90% of its cherry crop this year, by one estimate I read.
 
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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wow, nice that you could visit, and thank you for sharing that. My son and I, who are trying to start a smaller-scale version of an orchard/farm with poultry, just recently learned about Mark's farm and were very impressed. We would love to visit and see it for ourselves, but it is a bit too far for an afternoon drive.
 
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