Berrien Springs, MI
Paul & Sarah Thelen
In the southwestern corner of Michigan, in the small town of Berrien Springs, Paul and Sarah Thelen grow fruit trees, and lots of them. The Thelens own Hillside Orchards, a one-hundred acre farm just miles from Lake Michigan. The farm is populated by apple, peach, apricot, nectarine, and cherry trees, along with raspberry and blueberry patches. Hillside is also one of the largest producers of organic chestnuts in the Midwest. The farm has been in Sarah’s family since 1836, and it remains a family business, with the Thelens’ two daughters involved in bringing Hillside’s yearly harvests to local farmers markets.
Since the Thelens fruit crops grow on trees, their idea of crop rotation is that of decades, rather than seasons. Paul notes that they do rotate their tree plantings every 10-20 years, depending on the variety of fruit. They implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to deter insects from feasting on the “fruits” of their labor. Paul attends several agricultural meetings and conventions each year to stay abreast of the latest methods for insect & disease controls, irrigation efficiencies, labor rules and regulations, and other farm practices. He looks forward to these opportunities to interact with other growers from the Midwest and across the country to discuss growing and marketing crops.
After decades in the farming business, Paul’s philosophy on farming remains tried and true. “We continue to work at growing the best tasting apples, peaches, cherries, and other fruits for our customers, who are our ultimate boss.”