Interview: Marc Willmeng

Interview: Marc Willmeng

Amongst many things, Marc Willmeng will tell you that “farming is an all-year-long business.” Having taken an interest in farming from the early age of eight years old, Marc has been farming for most of his life. Marc looked up to his grandfather, Warren Willmeng, not just as a horticulturist, but as a role model. Carrying on the traditions of his grandfather, Marc represents the latest generation in a long line of family farmers. Founded in 1902, Willmeng Farms supplies delicious Michigan-grown cherries to Seal the Seasons, so you can support local family farms and eat healthy all year-round. In a recent conversation with Marc, we got a chance to discuss how he got his start and learn more about his farm operations.

STS: How long have you been farming and how did you get started? How old were you when you first drove a tractor?
MW: I have been farming since I was eight years old. When I was young, I took an immediate interest and tried to help and form my own ideas on how to run this agricultural business. I was nine when I first drove a tractor. I remember one of the foremen put blocks under the pedals so I could drive it.

STS: What’s your favorite part of your farm? What will you tell your grandchildren about this spot on the farm?
MW: I really like the highest point of elevation on the farm because you are able to look over a lot of the fields at the same time.

STS: What is your favorite crop to grow and why?
MW: It would be cherries because it’s the first crop of every season and I really enjoy the mechanical harvest process.

STS:Beyond growing food, do you think the farm plays any other role in the community that it doesn’t get enough credit for?
MW:Farming is an all-year-long business—our plants and trees don’t take holidays and that fruit doesn’t magically appear on trees. It is different than other businesses because, in normal businesses, people are paid weekly or biweekly. In agriculture, you are only paid once a season, and harvest is complete.

STS:How do you keep your soil healthy year to year? Are there things you do to improve the soil and ecological diversity of the farm? What’s one “extra” practice you do that makes the land better for the next generation?
MW: We have each individual block of land tested so we know exactly what nutrients the soil needs. To improve the soil ecologically, I was involved in a soil conservation program. I always make sure I have a lot of younger trees coming into production.

STS: Who is your role model in the farming profession and what makes them a leader in the farming community?
MW:It was my grandfather Warren Willmeng. I always admired his respect and professionalism with his employees. His forefront thinking made him a great horticulturalist.

STS: What is the most rewarding part of growing healthy food on the farm?
MW: Knowing your producing safe quality fruit for people to enjoy.

STS: Do you have any special harvest or post-harvest traditions?
MW:After each crop of cherries, peaches, and apples, I take all my employees out to a huge meal to celebrate their hard work and dedication to the farm.

STS: What’s something that the city people don’t understand about farming or running a farm?
MW:How many different decisions have to be made, especially early in the morning before sunrise to get the fruit ready and to the shelves into the stores.

STS: What are your favorite dishes to make with your own produce?
MW:I enjoy the different pies made with all the types of fruit from cherries, peaches, and apples.

STS:What has been the biggest benefit of working with Seal the Seasons?
MW: Seal the Seasons realizes what farmers go through in one year to produce quality fruit and giving farmers an opportunity to be showcased so others not in farming can know exactly where their product comes from. For those that are interested in Marc’s cherries, keep an eye out for Seal the Seasons’ Michigan Mixed Cherries, grown by Marc Willmeng, currently available via delivery with Oberweis. For stock lists and availability info relevant to your location, please check out our store locator for more information.