Tucked back in a cherry orchard south of Traverse City, is an oasis of brambles that seem to produce an endless stream of tart and fragrant raspberries that are bound for a variety of delicious ends.
Potter Road Raspberries is the personal paradise created by Brenda and Mike Mahn to perpetuate their rather single-minded fascination with Rubus idaeus and its many hybrids. The light, sandy well-drained soil and rolling hills provide ideal conditions for spring and fall raspberry cultivation as well as cherry orchards, nectarines, peaches, rhubarb, jostaberries, and plums.
In the 1920’s, Clinton and Sylvia Goff began farming on the site, raising turkeys, potatoes, honeybees, and dairy cows. Clinton, also doubled as the milkman, made deliveries each morning of the milk produced on the farm. Sylvia also planted rhubarb on the property, which survives to this day and continues to produce a treasured crop for pies and jam. The Mahns have planted other varieties of rhubarb but have found no substitute for the original type planted by Sylvia.
After World War II, their son, Lowell Goff and his wife Carolyn planted both sweet and tart cherry trees, for which the region was becoming famous. Lowell was always experimenting with new varieties and tried Morello tart cherries, which are a beautiful dark red inside and out, as a plausible shortcut in the production of Maraschino cherries. This proved impractical due to the inability to remove the bracing tartness that makes Morello cherries justly famous and perfect for preserving in sweetened brandy.
The year 1993 inaugurated Brenda and her husband Mike’s tenure into the legacy of the family farm. Brenda’s grandfather Clinton suggested emphatically “plant raspberries!” when they took over and they did well by taking his advice.
Brenda and Mike love the effect that running a farm has had on their family and their life style. They truly believe the power of working the land has instilled a strong work ethic and great discipline in their children and they are quite proud of the results.
In 2012 the Mahns completed an expansion of their raspberry growing space that should double the harvest in 2013. This is great news for all of us who have come to depend on Potter Road Raspberries for a steady supply including Cherry Capital Foods, wineries like Black Star Farms, and Brenda’s legion of loyal u-pickers.
Brenda is a strong believer in doing things in a traditional way: weeding by hand, pruning by hand, and spending lots of quality time with her raspberry bushes. When she is not in the bramble patch she can often be found canning and making pickles in her kitchen, a labor of love she enjoys and the fruits of which she and her husband devour quicker than most would imagine!
Potter Road Raspberries is open May or June (depending on the crop) through the first snow but it is best to call ahead to make sure they have berries that day (they pick early!).
You can find Mike and Brenda at 282 Potter Road, Traverse City, Michigan 49686 or call them at (231) 947-6457.