It was 1960 when Verna Hoxsie first set up the tiny stand along M-72 on the land farmed with her husband, Larry. The couple added fresh-baked pies, and later some homemade jams and jellies, and upgraded to a large oak table that could display more products – and Hoxsie’s Farm Market was born.
“She had a lot of foresight, I think,” Denny Hoxsie says of his mother, the Market Matriarch who passed away last year (Larry died in 2007). The couple’s hard work and forward thinking were an early example of a business trend that’s helped Michigan’s agriculture sector flourish through its unique brand of “agri-tourism” – combining a growing consumer desire for healthy, fresh foods sprinkled with hands-on knowledge on how that food is grown and produced.
“There’s a whole generation of people now that didn’t grow up on a farm,” he said. “They were interested in learning about what we did and what it involved….it makes us feel good, because we’re proud of what we do.”
The market gradually evolved from that modest cherry stand to a farm market that included a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown on the family farm. Denny and Judy started helping out in the 1970s, and the family further bolstered the business when they constructed the current market in 1980. Denny also took time back then to get involved in the Chamber’s Leadership Grand Traverse program. He was part of the fourth LGT class back in 1989, and said he learned valuable leadership lessons that helped him in other community service roles including his work with the Michigan Farm Bureau, the Acme Township Board and local farmland preservation efforts.
The Hoxsies also credit other nearby farmers including Dave Amon and Bob Underwood with building a strong brand of farm markets in the Acme area. “They were able to fill their markets with people, and people that wanted to spend money,” he said.
The market thrived over the decades, featuring a vast offering of fruit and vegetables grown on the farms, baked goods, a corn maze, an apple “cannon” offering fun for all ages, and its popular pumpkin patch that extended the season well into the fall. It offered school tours so youngsters could experience how a working farm operates. It welcomed thousands of visitors visiting Northern Michigan in the summer months – many who came in to visit most every year – while the locals dominated the fall seasons. The couple isn’t necessarily surprised by its success – the growth in popularity of the fresh food movement combined with the success of the Pure Michigan tourism campaign have been a successful tandem for this segment of Michigan’s agricultural sector.
The Hoxsie family learned a lot about customer service and expectations over the years. With many of the same families visiting season after season, Judy said they’ve developed a special bond with their clients that other business owners can learn from.
“Just being thoughtful with your customers is a big thing, and offering them information to learn about what you do,” she said. “That’s always been important to us.”
But even businesses steeped in tradition continue to evolve, and Hoxsie’s Farm Market is no exception. With Denny and Judy nearing retirement age and their two daughters with other careers, they’ve scaled back some of the operation and recently listed the remaining 37-acre farm and market for sale. This season will go on as planned – the market will open September 15 through October or later. They will continue to feature the popular apple cannon, school tours and pumpkin harvest, but some of the operations and hours will be scaled back. They’ve updated their website to highlight all of this season’s offerings.
After that, the future is up in the air. They hope it generates some interest as a working farm and a farm market. But they also know the Acme community is changing and that the M-72 corridor continues to see more commercial development.
“We’d like to see it stay a farm – we would like to see it stay in agriculture,” Judy said.
Denny hopes for the same. “That would be neat -if somebody recognizes that what we did for the last 55 to 60 years is worthwhile and wanted to continue it,” he said.
Learn more about Hoxsie’s Farm Market by visiting its website at www.hoxsiesfarmmarket.com