A landmark dairy farm and a retiring minister and his wife are the Business and Citizen of the Year for the Kalkaska Chamber of Commerce.
Shetler Family Dairy is the Chamber’s Business of the Year, while Dan Johnson and his wife Sherry will receive the Citizen of the Year award. They will be honored at the annual Kalkaska Chamber Luncheon set for April 21 at the Kalkaska Church of Christ starting at 11:30 a.m.
George and Sally Shetler founded their well-known dairy farm on Tyler Road southeast of Kalkaska back in 1979. The farm utilizes sustainable farming practices and the Shetlers implemented a managed grazing system for their cows 25 years ago. In the mid-1990s in a shifting milk market, the Shetlers started to process and bottle their own milk for distribution in local stores. Their bottling plant was completed in 2000 and their milk products in traditional glass bottles are now available in more than 60 grocery and specialty stores and restaurants from Petoskey to Cadillac and into Leelanau County. The business also expanded to produce small batch premium ice cream, butter and other products.
“We’re very honored and surprised – and thankful,” Sally Shetler said of the Business of the Year honor. “It’s been quite a journey to get where we’ve gotten to.”
Shetler Family Dairy’s Farm Store has also evolved into one of the community’s prime tourism attractions. The Shetlers raised their five children on the farm, and have 14 grandchildren.
“We’ve really grown over the years,” she said. “We’re so busy that sometimes we don’t even think about it….we have a lot of visitors – people who come from downstate just to stop in and day hi.”
Johnson is retiring after 28 years of ministry at the Kalkaska Church of Christ. He’s a graduate of Great Lakes Christian College and Northwood University, and was first ordained to the ministry in 1978. He served as Senior Minister at Kalkaska Church of Christ from 1987 to December 2014, and also chairs the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center Board and serves on the Munson Healthcare Board. He’s also served as chaplin to the Village of Kalkaska and the Kalkaska County Sheriff’s Department. Sherry supported and assisted him in the ministry, served as Treasurer for the Village of Kalkaska for 14 years and led numerous women’s and community ministries over the past three decades. The Johnsons have three adult children and two grandchildren.
“It’s very much an honor indeed,” Dan Johnson said of the Chamber award. “We really appreciate the opportunity to serve the community in a place like this…we love Kalkaska – it’s our home.”
The Johnsons plan to continue to live in Kalkaska in retirement, and have launched a new endeavor called Restore Me ministries where they will assist and counsel young members of the ministry and their families.
The Chamber luncheon’s keynote speaker is Kevin Rogols, administrator of the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center. The Kalkaska Chamber is a division of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Luncheon tickets are available by contacting the Chamber office at (231) 995-7101.
-By Bill O’Brien