Tirrell FarmsteadAnytime he gets the chance, Ben Tirrell loves to talk about the importance of fresh, Michigan-grown food. A farmer in Eaton County, Tirrell and his family, including his wife, Jessy and his mother, Pat, have opened up their farm for the past three years and invited people to learn more about the kinds of quality products grown in their own backyard.

“We started Tirrell Farmstead Specialties three years ago on our farm,” Ben said. “We never intended to have our own store.”

The success of the little shop on the family farm prompted the family to make a move … across the street. The Tirrell’s recently opened their new location, the former Carmel Township hall, on the corner of Kalamo and Battle Creek highways.

The Tirrell family purchased the building in June and spent several months restoring some of the old schoolhouse charm in preparation to move their Farmstead Specialties store inside. Tirrell Farmstead Specialties offers meat, raised on the Tirrell farm, artisan cheeses, a staple of the family farm over the past few years, baked goods and handmade wool items. The shop also offers a variety of items grown or produced in Eaton County.

“We showcase the diversity of things done right here in Eaton County, which is pretty impressive,” Ben said. “Local food doesn’t have to be expensive. We try not to sell anything that’s not from Michigan. We can grow anything here in Michigan. It still amazes me that we have to have food brought in.”

He said in addition to showcasing locally grown food, the store has reestablished a connection between consumer and producer that has been lacking recently.

“We’ve really enjoyed having a relationships with some of the people we’re helping to feed,” Ben said. “There’s been a lot of interest from people lately and it’s nice to rediscover that connection.”

One connection made recently was with foreign exchange student, Marten Hambruch, for northern Germany. Marten recently spent time on the Tirrell farm learning about their work with cows, sheep and making cheese. Marten lives on a dairy farm in Germany and said his older brother will most likely get the family farm so learning about how to make a living through different aspects of agriculture has been a tremendous help for his future.

“It’s been eye opening,” Marten said. “I’ve learned what else I may be able to do in agriculture if I didn’t have a farm.”

Tirrell Farmstead Specialties is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (517) 543-7395, visit www.micheese.com, follow the shop on Twitter @tirrellfarms or find Tirrell Farmstead Specialties on Facebook.