Local gardener shares colorful bounty

sunflower: Brooke Whipple has opened a U-Pick Flower business located at 23834 Meceola Road, three miles west of Northland Drive. Currently, she is growing sunflowers, bachelor buttons, gladiolas, cosmos, sweet pea and more in her ever-expanding garden, open seven days a week for self-serve picking. In the fall, she plans to offer pumpkins. (Herald Review photo/Karin Armbruster)
sunflower: Brooke Whipple has opened a U-Pick Flower business located at 23834 Meceola Road, three miles west of Northland Drive. Currently, she is growing sunflowers, bachelor buttons, gladiolas, cosmos, sweet pea and more in her ever-expanding garden, open seven days a week for self-serve picking. In the fall, she plans to offer pumpkins. (Herald Review photo/Karin Armbruster)

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Brooke Whipple loves the land and what it can produce. She has a dream of sharing that produce with others and is beginning to realize that dream by offering a U-pick flower business at her property on Meceola Road, just three miles west of Northland Drive.

A Michigan native and Ferris State University graduate, Whipple and her family recently moved to the Reed City area after spending years in Alaska to be closer to extended family members. They purchased a farm three miles west of Northland Drive on Meceola Road and began revamping the land which had been forgotten.

“We really want to make a living off the land if possible,” Whipple said, adding it took her weeks of hard work to renovate the quarter-acre former corn field. “It was one row at a time and it was so much work.”

This year, Whipple has an abundance of sunflowers, sweat pea, peonies, cosmos, gladiolas, bachelor buttons, dahlias, echinacea and more, ready for passers-by  to pick and turn into a bright bouquet. Greenery, baby’s breath and lavender also grow on a small hillside. The U-pick option is available seven days a week from dawn until dusk.

Placed in an organized layout under a white tent are shears, buckets, paper towels and a large water dispenser for patrons to begin picking and assembling their flowers. A guest book is available for those who wish to leave a kind message, suggestions or more information. Flower types and prices also are listed, along with a jar to place cash or checks.

For the flower lover who wants an easier option, Whipple regularly creates small bouquets and picks single flowers for purchase at the site. In addition, her bouquets can be found at stores around the area, including Vic’s Supermarket and Northwind Travel Center in Reed City, Hixson’s Family Market and Country Corner Shell in Canadian Lakes, Paris Grocery in Paris and River’s Edge Landing in Stanwood.

Karen Wonch, of Stanwood, stopped by to visit the flower patch while traveling on the road to see family nearby. The option was a God-send, she said, as she had planned to purchase flowers that day for her mother.

“I saw the sign and I thought I’d check it out and see how it worked,” Wonch said. “I thought it was really cool. I’ve never done that before.”

After picking a colorful bouquet of sunflowers, sweet pea, bachelor buttons and zinnias, she made sure to write a small note in the guestbook before placing her payment in the jar next to the picking tools.

“The experience was so relaxing for me,” Wonch added. “It was a blessing to be out there picking flowers.

She said she is thankful for Whipple trusting others to be honest about their picking purchase and how the opportunity ministered to her, adding that she has told all of her friends about the location.

Other than flowers, Whipple is looking toward the future and how she can use the land in other ways. Already, a large pumpkin patch is growing next to the rows of flowers, ready for a U-pick opportunity in the fall season. She also would like to plant a small orchard, berry bushes and a hay field. The possibilities, Whipple added, are endless.

“I like the concept of having a beautiful farm that you can share,” she said. “My goal is to be one of those places where you bring your family, pick flowers, pumpkins, and vegetables, see some animals and have fun. It’s just getting people out. Every year we’ll hopefully offer more.”

Whipple also has a blog documenting the property’s progress and photographs of her family caring for the farm’s many animals. To view the blog, visit www.takingbackthefarm.blogspot.com.