The sign along the side of the road seemed out-of-place. Not filled with a slick call to action or teaser headline like all the others, but instead, nonchalant. As if it were a survivor of another time or older generation. Which, I suppose, is why it caught my eye.
The Mitten. Pond Hill Farm is located north of Petoskey, about 30 miles (nine as the crow flies across Little Traverse Bay). If you hold your left hand up, preferably dressed in a mitten, touch the spot where your little finger ends, that is about where you will find Pond Hill Farm and Petoskey. At least that’s how my Michigander friend David Bessmer would describe it.
The drive up M-119 from Petoskey State Park to Pond Hill takes you through Harbor Springs and on to the Tunnel of Trees. Ranked among the most scenic roads in the nation, the Tunnel of Trees two-lane asphalt twists and turns through tall forests of hardwoods and hemlocks. This was my first visit to the area and I’m told it is spectacular no matter what season.
The real deal. Make a right off the Tunnel of Trees (M-119) and you’ll bump into Pond Hill Farm. I was surprised I found the Farm following only the small roadside sign in Petoskey and another identical sign just north of Harbor Springs. Several times on the drive I thought to turn around or take some detour, but the little voice in my head said: “go on”. I was glad I did. If you’re in search of the authentic, this is it. An experience created not by marketing or branding, but the real deal, a burst of colors, shapes, and activity spread across 197 acres of vineyards, greenhouses, vegetable patches, and buildings. All of which is framed by the entranceway consisting of two huge tree trunks turned root-side up with the farm name between them.
Beet Beer. It was a Thursday when I visited Pond Hill Farm and the place was rocking.
- The cafe was busy with visitors enjoying the sunny weather and lunch on the second story patio. By the way, the patio is dog-friendly.
- Pond Hill brews a unique selection of craft beers including three featuring the farm’s red and golden beets and an ale showcasing the farm’s rhubarb. The beet beer had a pleasant, earthy finish to it; the rhubarb ale reminded me of a sour beer, which is right up my alley.
- Crews of young people worked the vineyard harvesting the first grapes of the season. It looked like fun and I volunteered to help, but I don’t think they took me seriously. Perhaps they thought I couldn’t keep up.
- Fresh, farm-grown vegetables are for sale in the store along with a huge selection of on-site canned vegetables, sauces, and preserves. You can’t get any more fresh or more local than what you’ll find here. Pond Hill Farm grows vegetables year-round utilizing 20 acres of farmland and four massive greenhouses.
With so much to see and taste at Pond Hill Farm, I could only scratch the surface. Enjoy fun activities like the Squash Rocket, a massive slingshot that lets you fling fruits and vegetables out in the fields for the sheep and goats. Take a hike in the woods then walk to the top of the vineyard for a breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Michigan. In winter ski or snowshoe the farm’s miles of groomed trails and afterward warm up with a pint of Master Beet Pale Ale or a glass of Regatta Red.
There is also more to Pond Hill Farm than meets the eye. Talking with staff member Sean, a Michigan State University grad and true Renaissance man, I learned that the Farm benefits the community beyond providing food, drink, and recreation. High school and college students from around the United States come here to intern and learn. What a special opportunity.
Like I said, I really wasn’t looking for something new but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Following that sign to Pond Hill Farm helped open my eyes to what we can become if we stay true to ourselves.
Want to learn more about Pond Hill Farm? Go here.