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Ham Family Farm: Over 100 Years of Fresh Produce

Gwyn Duesbery

Ham Family Farm: Over 100 Years of Fresh Produce

Based out of Allendale, MI, Ham Family Farm really is just that—a family farm. It has been passed down to Charlie and Lisa Ham from the generations before them for the last 111 years and has grown to 40 acres with over 37 different crops. The relationship between Ham Family and Grove started only 4 years ago in 2012, but has forged into a collaborative bond. As producers of fresh, local vegetables, Ham Family Farm has been able to tailor their produce to fit Grove’s unique needs.

When our chefs want to try a vegetable that has not been grown at Ham Family Farm in the past, the farmers work with them to make it a reality. A partnership with Ham Family Farm means that Grove can continue to provide farm-fresh and local food to our customers and develop the connection we have to a farm that has been fresh and local for over 100 years. Sitting down with Charlie Ham, his passion for growing superior produce is evident.

We recently sat down with Charlie Ham for some good conversation. Check out the interview below:

How did Ham Family Farm come to be?

Our family has farmed on this land since 1905. We started out as dairy farmers evolving to market gardeners in the 1970s. Our ancestors Klaus and Bouky were the first ones to settle here. Lisa and I are the fourth generation of hopefully many more on the farm.

Why did you decide to become a farmer?

I wonder myself sometimes. It is quite a demanding occupation. I really enjoy growing and nurturing things. Being outside with living things and interacting with the helpers each year is fulfilling.

Do outside forces influence your farming? 

Since we market our produce to people who consume it directly, our customers have been the major force that guides our farming decisions.

What do you love about what you do?

It is nice to have all the produce at our fingertips. We eat pretty well.

What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you have ever experienced through your work with Ham Family Farm?

We are so dependent on the weather. The strangest thing has been the extremes in weather that we have experienced in the last decade. This is not a good thing for us.

Ham Family Farm has a unique approach to its buyers in that it encourages businesses to suggest crops for you to grow. How did that start and why do you feel that it is important to offer that option?

We are fortunate to have relationships with talented and creative chefs like the people at Grove. We respect what they do. It only makes sense for them to have input in our decisions about what to grow. They come up with some challenging crops for us to try to grow and that makes it more interesting than just corn, beans, and tomatoes.

Through Farmers Markets and businesses, your produce has been able to reach more people. How does this affect Ham Family Farm’s business and farming practices?

There have been two major shifts in the customers’ attitudes toward food in my time on the farm. One is the concern about the safe and sustainable growing of food. The other is the increased knowledge that our customers have about produce and how to prepare it.

In what ways does Ham Family Farm continue to grow?

Getting bigger is not something we aspire to. We change in response to the needs of the people we are so fortunate to grow for.

Grove and Ham Family have collaborated on many new crops over the years. By working so closely with Grove’s chefs, have you been able to understand what it takes to make the farm-to-table concept successful?

What makes the farm-to-table concept successful at Grove is the sincere commitment that has been made to source local food. We know that relying on small growers like us and the constantly changing availability of crops in a growing season is not easy.

Bringing responsibly sourced, thoughtfully prepared food to West Michigan has always been a core belief of Grove and Essence Restaurant Group, what does it mean to you to be an integral part of that?

Our motto is "Growing good food for good people." The people of Grove are good people. We are proud to be a part of what they do!

Thanks for getting to know Ham Family Farm with us as we continue to celebrate our amazing local suppliers! Be sure to come into Grove, Bistro Bella Vita, and The Green Well to give their fresh veggies a try! We know you will fall in love with their crisp, quality produce just like we have.

Contact Charlie and Lisa at Ham Family Farm by phone, (616) 895-4209, or by email, hamfamilyfarm@gmail.com.