First-Generation Farmer Looks to Nature for Inspiration
on Wednesday, October 19, 2022
It’s not often you hear about someone starting a farm from scratch, but one MEC electric customer has done just that.
Although Joe Koopsen, 26, grew up in Portage and wasn’t raised in a farming family, he spent many years participating in 4-H showing chickens, pigs, and rabbits. The program inspired his passion for raising livestock, leading him to found Joe’s Farm in 2011 as a small hen-raising operation in Schoolcraft.
By 2014, it was clear to Koopsen that he needed to expand. His parents found land for sale in Three Rivers, and in 2015, Joe’s Farm moved to its permanent home there. A few hundred hens became more than a thousand, which grew to 6,000 in 2020 before Koopsen stopped raising hens entirely. In 2016, he began raising broiler chickens, and in 2021 he added cattle. This year, Joe’s Farm produced around 30,000 broiler chickens and 30 cattle.
As a first-generation farmer, Koopsen was uniquely positioned to decide how his farm would run. To that end, he made sure sustainability would be an integral piece of the puzzle. Joe’s Farm practices regenerative agriculture, a method of restoring nutrients in topsoil inspired by animal behaviors in nature.
Each day, Koopsen moves his cattle to fresh pasture and allows them to graze. Following behind, a tractor pulls greenhouses on skids. Chickens living in the greenhouses eat bugs and spread the manure left from the cattle. The process increases organic matter in the soil, which produces healthier pastures, resulting in healthier animals and products with an improved nutritional makeup.
In addition to sustainability, Joe’s Farm focuses on community. He’s partnered with a number of local farms, as well as organizations like Bronson Hospital and Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s food hub, to distribute his products. And for those who want to learn more about where their food comes from, the farm has an open-door policy.
“One thing I hate is when you can’t see where your food is raised,” Koopsen says.
Families are allowed to come see the farm and can schedule a tour if they wish. This philosophy even extends to the Farm Stand, the store at the front of the property where the farm’s products are sold. The building is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is entirely self-serve. Customers can walk in, select their purchases, and pay using cash, checks, or Venmo.
Despite the inherent risks of starting your own farm, Koopsen says it’s given him the opportunity to build an innovative operation from the ground up – and his work is never finished. He continues to look for ways to expand and improve as new challenges present themselves.
Joe’s Farm can be found online at joesfarm.us. You can also follow them on Facebook at Joe’s Farm, or Instagram at @joesfarm.us.