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Meet Chip Ransom, quintessential farming extraordinaire, whose multi-faceted endeavors and dedication to real food have made him an integral pillar of the Co-op from its very inception. Since 1975, Ransom has worn many hats: ski instructor, apple cider maker, and harmonica player, to name a few, and perhaps most notably the former Produce Coordinator and General Manager at the Keweenaw Co-op for over 20 years.
“All it was was trash cans on the floor and peanut butter pails, as we emptied them, full of bulk stuff. Bulk food, and bulk spices in gallon jars. And that was it. There was no refrigeration. There were just nuts and seeds and dried fruit and herbs and spices,” says Ransom. “That’s the beginning of the Co-op, and then it just got bigger and bigger.”
It’s been 50 years since then, and Ransom is now celebrating not only 50 years at his farm but also 50 years married to his partner Cindy, whom he met in Aspen, Colorado while working at a restaurant.
“We’re hippies, and proud of it!” says Ransom.
The farm features fields of homegrown produce and flowers, greenhouses, chickens, a pond for fishing (nicknamed “Lake Inferior”), homemade rock walls built by Ransom, and a hippie van, where workers can live over the summer. Ransom uses innovative farming techniques to create ideal growing environments for his produce–from peppers to rhubarb to herbs. Ransom utilizes hugelkultur, the creation of garden beds using a build-up of compost, including cardboard and beer filter papers from Keweenaw Brewing Company, which in turn cultivate a rich soil for plants to grow.
Ransom notes the importance of supporting the start-up farms in your community, like Jen and Dustin at Minnie Farms, for whom he served as a mentor.
“When we moved here in 2016 and they basically took us under their wing right away,” says Jen of Minnie Farms. “So we were their farmhand for at least 2 years. They’re more like family at this point.”
The Ransoms hope to share their wisdom and expertise to inspire others to grow their own food and together create a more sustainable and vibrant agricultural community within the Keweenaw.
Stay tuned for more farmer features and look out for a variety of Chip Ransom’s produce sweeping our shelves this year, from summertime raspberries to walnuts in the fall. This week, find Chip’s fresh, local asparagus and some spring onions before they’re gone, and try his sunchokes (AKA Jerusalem artichokes), a nutritious, sweet, and nutty root crop that goes great in a stir fry.
Photos and Article by Lily Venable