From the ground up

In Hemlock, a young couple grows organic produce, healthful visions of their future


Tyler Shepherd looks for produce to harvest at his farm, 1673 Pruess Road, Hemlock, Michigan, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. While working, Shepherd will listen to music or a ball game on his radio. After filling baskets of harvest in the field, he’ll drive them back to his barn to be washed and packed for sale.  

HEMLOCK -- In five years, Tyler and Hannah Shepherd turned 14 acres of land into Shepherd Organic Produce & Poultry LLC, a United States Department of Agriculture-certified organic farm. As an organic farm, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides are used on their products. 

Tyler, 27, began helping his dad slaughter chickens and planting in his parents’ garden around age 7. Starting a farm always interested him, Tyler said.

Nancy Shepherd, Tyler's mother, said as a child, Tyler took his passion of farming and went with it. 

“Ty was our little farmer growing up,” Nancy said.

Buying organically farmed land by his grandparents and uncle, Tyler said the Shepherds have grown produce and raised poultry since 2018. 

The family sells on their farm and at farmers markets in Michigan. This year they went to market in Thomas Township, Northville and Midland. 

Produce such as potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, lettuce and herbs are sold among other plants and vegetables. As for poultry, the Shepherds raise chickens and turkeys.

Any extra vegetables they have are fed to their animals or composted and reused in their fields.

Being the first and last farm with unique products for sale is what the Shepherds strive for during the May-October market season.   

“The first and the last is the name of the game,” Tyler said. 

Related content: Gallery: Shepherd Organic Produce & Poultry LLC

As the market season came to a close, the workload increased; most of their summer hires return to school in the fall. Handling this, mother nature and insect problems are a few of the many challenges when running a farm, Tyler said.   

“There’s lots to learn and you never know it all,” Tyler said. “The one thing with farming is you never have it figured out.”   

Helping in the fields and running their social media accounts, Tyler’s wife Hannah, 28, also owns and manages the farm. As first-time parents to 9-month-old Adam with plans for more, Tyler hopes to pass the farm down to their children.  

With only nine of their 14 acres in use -- around six acres of produce and three acres of pasture -- the Shepherds plan on expanding their farm.  

Tyler said they want to offer more plant options and build more hoop houses, lengthening their growing season in the spring and fall. The Shepherds also hope to sell greater varieties of fruit and meat by starting a small orchard and raising lambs, pigs or cows.    

“[It’s] just a start to my endless ideas and dreams,” Tyler said.