Meet Tom Kolasa

Fresh strawberries for Christmas? K’s Acres in Hillsdale, Michigan,
makes it possible for fresh strawberries to adorn holiday tables thanks
to the farm’s hydroponic strawberry operation.Hydroponic strawberries.

Tom Kolasa moved to the farm in 2000, living there with his mother and Tom’s son, Scott. While Tom enjoyed his grandfather’s farm as a youngster, he grew up in the Detroit area working for Chrysler at the parts plant in Centerline. During that time, he never pictured himself as a farmer. But that changed when Tom and Scott moved to the farm with the purpose of assisting Tom’s aging mother. Together, they began clearing overgrown land and establishing a small fruit operation in 2001.

Just when some of the trees were beginning to bear significant fruit, the extreme winters of 2012 and 2013 set the fledgling orchard back several years when many trees were lost to those brutal winters.

To date, eight of the farm’s 160 acres have been converted to specialty crops which include raspberries, apples, peaches, herbs, early market tomatoes, peppers, and flowers along with the hydroponic strawberries.

Tom checks his berries.
In 2007, Tom’s right leg was amputated due to Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). He was still able to navigate the farm with the use of a prosthesis and a power chair obtained with the help of AgrAbility. In 2010, PAD robbed him of his left foot and most of his remaining mobility.

However, Tom’s drive in seeing K’s Acres become a thriving farm-to-table operation kept him focused on the future and continuous improvement and expansion. Through the USDA Hoop House for Health program, Tom obtained a grant to purchase a hoop house, and with some Michigan Rehabilitation Services and Michigan AgrAbility help, completed the infrastructure of the greenhouse. The building was outfitted with the hydroponic system that grows strawberries eight months out of the year.

“This is our third year and some of it we figure out as we go,” Tom said. “We are trying to play Mother Nature with the building.”

“This was really for me so I can get in there and pick and work with the plants,” he added. The strawberries have become one of their best sellers. Throughout the growing season, K’s Acres employs Tom’s granddaughter and up to three additional people who work in various points of operation.

K’s Acres markets most of their produce at five area farmers markets including Marshall, Jackson Green River, Green Market, Grass Lake and Hillsdale.

Look for K’s Acres and Tom at one of these markets this summer, and tell them you saw him on the blog. Your purchase supports local farmers.

Tom's hoop house.

Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2016