Tyndalls’ centennial farm ventures into hops

September 15, 2012

Anna and Blake Mazurek

CARR SETTLEMENT — Life on the farm changes through the years. Each generation has to find its own niche. Such is the case of the Tyndall family farm on the Mason-Lake county line.

As the farm observes its centennial year Anna (Tyndall) and Blake Mazurek have become the fourth generation to own it. Anna’s parents, Carter and Mila, have retired and moved to Florida. The Mazureks have decided to explore an up and coming Michigan venue, growing hops.

“When we got the farm we asked ourselves what can we do with it?” Blake says while giving a tour of the operation. “We really like craft beer and that business is growing fast in the state.” From that idea, Carr Creeks Hops was born.

Anna grew up on the farm, located just south of what used to be downtown Carr Settlement. Blake is a self confessed city person who longs to live in the country. The two, along with their two teenage children, Bethany and Jackson, live in the Grand Rapids area. Blake is a teacher for Grandville schools and Anna works in a medical office.

But, they look forward to weekends and the summer when they can be on the farm.

There is a lot of tradition in a family farm, especially when it is 100 years old. The Tyndall farm was first settled in 1867 by Charles Carr who along with his brother-in-law Benjamin Barnett, founded the six-square-mile area known as Carr Settlement.

Barnett and Carr were Civil War veterans from New York who fought for the Union army. As part of their service they were entitled to settlements in unclaimed areas of the country. They chose this land, located in Mason County’s Logan Township and Lake County’s Lake Township, because of its rich lumber, a wise choice considering Ludington’s Justice Stearns chose the area as a site for one of his lumber mills.

In 1912, George M. Tyndall, a teacher and farmer from Indiana, bought Carr’s land. Tyndall had previously bought land close by and had been farming that since 1902.

“He became a prosperous farmer as well as a good citizen,” Katherine LaPointe wrote in “The Story Behind the Pine Stump,” in 1957. George taught at the nearby Locke School. LaPointe’s story says that Barnett owned the land that is now the Tyndall farm. However, Blake said his investigation at the Register of Deed’s office indicated it was Carr’s land.

The Tyndall farm sits on 80 acres near the intersection of Tyndall and Hawley roads. Much of the land is leased out to another farmer but the hops operation is currently 1.5 acres, which is plenty for a first year operation.

Blake says he’s been blessed to have friends and family be involved with the operation. He also has had the help of the Michigan Hops Alliance of Traverse City, a sort-of coop that provides mutual harvesting equipment and lots of information to its members.

Blake and Anna have also learned a lot about the farm from Anna’s father, Carter.

“The information he offers about farming and about this farm is just invaluable,” Blake says.

Blake says their farm is one of three in Mason County growing hops. The crop is a little different than most others.

First, hops grow upwards. Blake uses 22 foot black locust poles that are buried into the ground 4 feet.

It’s important to the Mazureks that their hops be raised organically. Some farmers use treated poles, but the black locust poles are all natural. However, they are expected to last 75 to 100 years.

The twine which the hops grow on is coconut coir twine. The twine is placed 36 inches apart and connected to wires that extend from pole to pole.

Drip irrigation is pumped out to the hops. This is where things get kind of special. The Tyndall farm has an artesian well, a natural flowing well which helps reduce their electricity costs and the need to drill for water.

The Mazureks are growing six varieties of hops this year and this weekend (Sept. 15) will be the first harvest.

“They did pretty well for the first year,” Blake says. “They took off well, especially considering the hot and dry season we had.”

Hops are the female flower clusters, also known as seed cones or strobiles, of a hop series. They are used primarily as flavoring and as a stability agent in beer, among other beverages and herbal medicine.

The crop is harvested by cutting down the vines and then bringing it to the harvester, which for Blake is in Traverse City. They are hoping to get some friends to help with the harvest.

Hops grow best in the latitudes of 35 to 55 degrees. Mason County is located on the 43rd parallel.

Blake says Michigan hops have a unique flavor because of the proximity to Lake Michigan. Because of that, he expects the popularity of the crop to grow in this region.

“It’s been a fun year,” Blake says. “We’ve met so many people and have learned a lot. The community members have been great.”

Story and photos by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

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