Harry Norconk is weighing asparagus when I arrive at Norconk Farms. Asparagus season is in full swing and he doesn’t have time to sit and chat, so instead we hop onto an RTV and drive out to the fields to pick up crates of freshly harvested asparagus. Driving around the farm we pass acres of asparagus stalks popping up out of the ground waiting to be harvested. Out in the field workers ride along the rows snapping spear after spear out of the ground and sorting into crates to be washed, weighed and packed.
The weather was cold the previous day so not enough asparagus was ready to be picked. However, today is warm and sunny, meaning lots of asparagus needs to be harvested today or it will quickly turn too woody. Asparagus is a very weather dependent crop. Ideally, Harry tells me, every day of asparagus season would be 70˚ to ensure more consistent growth, but being Northern Michigan, this is not the case and temperatures vary from 40˚ to 70˚ in a matter of hours. Harry estimates they will work close to 14 hours today harvesting, picking up crates, washing, sorting, weighing, storing or delivering—then repeat.
Every spring, asparagus is one of the first readily available vegetables in Northern Michigan. The short season is an eating and picking frenzy. Steamed, sautéed, baked, pickled, munched on raw, put into soups, onto pizza—the possibilities are endless for young shoots of this flowering perennial!
Norconk Farms has been a family farm for around 100 years with Harry Norconk farming since 1978. With 50 acres of Jersey Night and Jersey Giant asparagus under cultivation they are able to deliver fresh asparagus to 40 restaurants, Tom’s Food Market, Oleson’s Food Stores, Munson Hospital, the Father Fred Foundation, and many schools through the Farm to School program. Norconk Asparagus can also be found every Saturday during asparagus season at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market allowing the customers to be able to connect directly with the farmers. Be sure not to wait, asparagus season will be over soon and we will have to wait another year for this tender treat!
If you are in the Empire area, feel free to stop by their self serve stand at 9759 Northland Highway three miles south of Empire right off of M-22.
Find the listing and more information for Norconk Farm at localdifference.org
Juliana Lisuk wears many hats working at SEEDS. She is a food educator for their after-school programs, VISTA Americorps Leader, oversees the SEEDS Farm at the Historical Barns Property, and is the market manager for the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmer’s Market. She loves being involved in numerous parts of the local food system! Connect with her through email: Juliana@ecoseeds.org