February 20, 2020

Picking berries in paradise

Posted

FAIRVIEW — Walking around the yard of Michael Peychich’s homestead, stepping over free range chickens, duck eggs, turtles and other little critters, one realizes that this may not be paradise, but it’s pretty darn close to it.

While he’s officially retired, Michael wears many hats on a daily basis. In general, he says he’s a grandfather, photographer and now, berry farmer. Michael’s lived at his Fairview homestead since December of 2015, and in the time since his wife passed away, he’s tried to figure out a way to keep himself busy, spend time with his family and give back to the community all at the same time. Fortunately he’s found what he was looking for in opening the county’s only u-pick strawberry farm.

“I want to do it because it supports the community,” Michael said. “One thing I see happening is that people, families, don’t spend time together like they used to. I like giving people the opportunity to come out here, and make memories.”

With his family, Michael has planted roughly a full mile of strawberry plants on his 37-acre homestead that backs up to the Huron National Forest. This will be the first year since doing so that he will be opening the homestead to the general public. He’s expecting roughly 16,000-pounds of strawberries to grow this year, and he says he’ll need help getting rid of them.

“I just enjoy seeing other people enjoying it all, and watching them pick the berries,” Michael said. “People used to have to drive an hour to do this, but now it’s right here in Fairview.”

While this is technically a business venture, Michael said it is hardly about the money.

“I do this because I enjoy this, I’m not trying to make a living here,” Michael said. “This is my homestead, this is what I like to do. Any extra money I make is just for me to go do things with my granddaughters.”

Although the property now has a significant spread of berries, Michael said when he first moved to the area it was not easy to cultivate the land. It was too sandy. One day, after speaking to a neighbor about his difficulties, that same neighbor showed up with a truckload of manure for him to use. That neighbor refused to take a single penny for the assistance, claiming this is the way Oscoda County residents take care of each other. Michael said that’s impacted his relationship with the community ever since.

Michael’s homestead is also host to other community events. This summer the county 4-H program is running a special garden with the dozen children taking part in the program.

“They get to experience the chickens and the garden and all that,” Michael said. “I was born and raised in the city, and I think there is so much more that you can get from this lifestyle.”

Looking forward, Michael said his hope is to grow a bit larger, but he doesn’t expect to become a major strawberry manufacturer any time soon. He said the largest he’d like to get is about double the size he is currently cultivating. He said his hesitation to grow too large too quickly is because he doesn’t want to get burned out.

“I want to continue to enjoy this, I don’t want it to become too much,” he said.

For more information on Michael’s strawberry farm, Fairview Berries, go to www.facebook.com/fairviewberries. The homestead is located at 3788 Mast Rd. in Fairview. U-pick hours are from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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