Collaboration and a Clear Plan to Give Holly Farmstead a Future

Collaboration and a Clear Plan to Give Holly Farmstead a Future

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 5, 2017)

Holly, MI – There are two keys to success for the creation of the Holly Heritage Farmstead, collaboration and a plan.  Holly Township Supervisor George Kullis has taken the reins to revive the 14 acre property that lines 13409 North Holly Road.

Currently the property has two farmhouses, a community garden, an outhouse and a chicken house.  Plus there is the large red barn, which now sits on steel beams while the new foundation and lower level is poured.

The barn, built in the late 1830s, had been leaning dangerously and a previous effort to stabilize it with metal cables was not enough to hold it.  A $40,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Flint’s Mott Family Trust was matched with Township funds last year to stabilize the building, and another $11,000 had been allocated. On Aug. 30 the board approved spending another $50,000 to do what is now called Phase One of the project – lifting the barn and pouring a new foundation.

Several interested parties gathered Thursday at the Holly Vault including representatives from Oakland County Historical Preservation, Turtle Creek Farm, Michigan State University Extension, 4H and members of the community with an interest in seeing the property flourish.

Discussion focused on looking at other examples of farms and historic places that have become profitable destination locations, and on what possibilities there might be for Holly Heritage Farmstead.

“People have been discussing what to do with this for at least 13 years, but the answer is always the same, no money, no money,” Kullis said.  “Well with no plan, there’s no money.”

Having a plan in place will make it easier to apply for grants and to fundraise, he explained.

Options discussed for the Farmstead include the potential for partnering with 4H to raise livestock, possibly leasing some of the land for a demonstration farm, hosting weddings and events, and even hosting camps that would help bring revenue in.

At Turtle Creek Farm in Waterford, for example, over 200 students sign up for camp each year. The cost is $300 per kid with siblings for $250.  Kullis said registration fills up within minutes, showing a demand for such camps.

Turtle Creek has a menagerie of animals including horses, alpacas, goats, ducks, and reptiles. There is a butterfly house and a house with rocks to study geology.  Students can take water samples from the pond and look at organisms under the microscope.

Kullis said working with 4H and incorporating animals will make the farmstead most appealing.  “More youth want to raise animals, but they can’t in the village or other places depending where they live,” he said.

Ronald Campbell, Preservation Architect with Oakland County, shared other examples, including the VanHoosen Park in Rochester, the Wixom Barn, the Ortonville Barn and Tulgate Farm in Novi. Campbell and other from Oakland County are helping with the plan.

“If we really want to do a good job on this, we need to explore all the possibilities,” Campbell said. “We also don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  There are a lot of good ideas out there. We just have to see what works here.”

One advantage he noted was that the property is on a main road with lots of visible frontage, and that it’s in an area poised to attract people from Metro Detroit and the Flint area.  “We have that advantage of a large population within driving distance.”

Thursday’s meeting served to bring all the interested parties together and create an initial list of ideas.  Public meetings will be announced as the plans progress.

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