Farm-fresh food, friendliness and fun at Rennhack Orchards Market

August 1, 2014
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Dave and Joann Rennhack, owners of Rennhack Orchards Market in Hart.

By Allison Scarbrough. Contributing Editor.

HART — What began as a small, road-side fruit stand measuring less than 200 square feet has flourished into a 2,000-square-foot produce market that thrives on farm-fresh food, friendly and knowledgeable service and a fun atmosphere.

Sweet corn is picked fresh every day.

Sweet corn is picked fresh every day.

Rennhack Orchards Market, located on Polk Road across from Hansen Foods, is a great place for locals and tourists alike to not only buy beautiful and tasty fresh produce but also shop for many other unique and locally-made items.

The market is owned by Dave and Joann Rennhack, who live on their fourth-generation farm just one mile down the road. Joann’s mother’s family, the Hawleys, settled the farm one century ago.

The majority of their gorgeous produce comes from that 120-acre farm. “We grow as much as we can ourselves,” said Dave. The couple is focused on selling local products. “To me, if it’s local, it means you can bicycle to get there,” Joann said.

The market also caters to bicyclists using the nearby 22-mile-long William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Bicycle Trail. “This is the trailhead,” Dave said. There is a bike rack and picnic table just outside the store for cyclists and restrooms and a water spigot inside.

The business sprouted 30 years ago when Rennhacks began selling sweet cherries at the site in 1984. At the time, the stand was owned by Jerry Spencer. After a few years, more produce was added, and when sweet corn hit the stands in 1988, the produce stand’s popularity blossomed.

Dave and Joan eventually purchased the property in 1993, and the current building was constructed in 2006. The Rennhacks now have 10 times the retail space they had when the stand first opened.

Rennhack Orchard Market offers a bounty of delicious produce.

Rennhack Orchard Market offers a bounty of delicious produce.

On their farm, they have 80 acres of apples; 10 acres of cherries; five acres of peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots; 20 acres of

sweet corn; five acres of pumpkins and squash; one acre of tomatoes; and a half acre of miscellaneous produce. “It’s uncommon for farm markets to raise as much as we do,” Dave said. “Dave grows specialty crops,” said Joann, adding that apricots are very unique to this area.

The market’s blueberries come from farms in the Muskegon-area, Dave said.

“We really emphasize quality,” said Dave. “Our sweet corn is picked every day.” The corn harvest just started last Saturday, he said. Due to the cooler-than-normal summer this year, all crops have been been delayed about 4-7 days. Despite the delays, crops are high quality this season. “This is the best year we’ve ever had due to the rain,” Dave said of the corn harvest.

The Rennhacks enjoy educating people about all the different varieties of produce. “Our sampling shelf educates your taste buds,” Joann said. Shoppers are encouraged to taste samples from the many baskets of produce on the shelf at the front of the store.

The majority of the store’s unique products are Michigan-made. They have many kitchen-oriented items, such as aprons and cooking utensils, as well as preserves, salad dressings, salsa, pickled asparagus, honey, maple syrup and much more. Gorgeous gift baskets made locally by Margie Shaw, who has been nicknamed “The Gift Basket Guru,” make wonderful presents all year round. The baskets can be custom-Rennhack5made for that special person on your Christmas list or any occasion. Prices range from $10-$100, Dave said.

Uniquely-crafted cutting boards made in Whitehall are among many other locally-made items also available at Rennhacks’ store.

The store normally opens for business every year around the time of the National Asparagus Festival, which is mid-June, and remains open until Christmas time when they have Christmas trees for sale. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October. In November, they are open Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. At Thanksgiving time, the store is open Monday through Saturday again until Christmas. Rennhacks employ 12-15 part-time employees.

Bridge Card, Project Fresh and Senior Fresh payments are accepted. Customers can sign up to receive product updates from the market’s e-newsletter. The market also has a Facebook page, facebook.com/rennhackmarket to keep customers updated on harvests.

Rick Emerson of Lansing, who has a vacation home in Oceana County, shops for sweet corn at Rennhack Orchards Market in Hart.

Rick Emerson of Lansing, who has a vacation home in Oceana County, shops for sweet corn at Rennhack Orchards Market in Hart.

Something near and dear to the Rennhacks’ hearts is helping people in need. Their market offers a “Care Corner,” which has products made by oppressed women from several countries through the Women At Risk (WAR) program. The products include beautifully-crafted, colorful jewelry, artistic stationery and many other affordable items. WAR

rescues women out of sex trafficking” said Dave who went on a mission trip to Nicaragua with Shelby Road Baptist Church last year. The “Gift Basket Guru,” Margie Shaw, also went on this mission, he said. “One hundred percent of the sales go to the organization,” said Dave of the Care Corner. “The money goes back to the women, so they can support themselves.”

“It gives these women a life of dignity,” Joann said. According to the WAR brochure, every $250 in sales sustains a woman for a month.

The organization was founded by a West Michigan woman, Becky McDonald, Joann said.

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Rennhack Orchards Market offers much more than fresh produce.

The market has Cherry Flex ®  products, the popular brand of superfruit food made from whole fruit. The cherry skin offers many nutritional benefits. Cherry Flex ® products are especially beneficial to people who suffer from arthritis, Joann said. See www.cherryflex.com for more information.

Rennhacks offer locally-made pies from Wheeler Farms in Elbridge and Woodland Farm Market in Shelby. Tortilla chips from La Fiesta restaurant in Hart are also hot sellers. “We know the people we have things from,” Joann said. “We are firm believers in ‘Know your Farmer.’”

 

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