The following article was taken from a copy of a brochure put out by the Michigan State University for Muck Farmers – Farmers Week in celebration of their 50th annual meeting in 1968.
‘The muck section in Imlay City is some 20 miles long and varies in width from 80 rods to 2 miles. It is an old glacial river drainage-way. The area totals about 3,000 acres. Drainage of the Imlay City area was first attempted in 1915 and improved up to the 1938 period. In 1965 and 1966 a major clean out and flood control program was established.
In 1922, a young man, John DeHaan, grew the first celery in the Imlay City area on the Palmer farm. It turned out well and looked so promising then it led to the formation of the Belle River Celery Company which was established the following year by Harry Palmer, Dr. Large and Fred Butler.
The company employed Peter Laarman from Hudsonville to manage a celery and onion production operation. Frank Yonkman, Henry Ettema, John Stryker, Marinus Vandenberg and John Vlieg were among the early pioneers. From 1923 to 1928, twelve families moved to the area from Zeeland, Kalamazoo and Byron Center. Almon Brandt was among the latter. He and his sons, Vernon, Robert, Almon Jr., Lindy and Larry are growers of carrots, onions and other vegetables.
These first farms consisted of 15 to 20 acres of muck and were worked in most cases by family members with some outside help. Because of the extensive acreage, there was ample room for expansion during the early periods. The small farms grew larger or were sold out to large operators until the farms today range from 100 to 500 acres in size.
The Imlay City area is noted for the good relationships which exist between the families that came to develop the mucklands and the native residents. Twelve Dutch families organized the Christian Reformed Church on June 11, 1928. They built a church in 1941 and a second one in 1965, and their congregation now numbers 100 families.
Meanwhile, the local businessmen took an active interest in the families as they moved into the area and in the development of the muckland. For thirty-five years the Chamber of Commerce has sponsored an annual muck day in honor of the vegetable growers in their community. The major crops are packaged carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, blueberries, mint, and in recent years, sod.
Near the Imlay City area is the Brown City muckland which totals about 2,000 acres and the Capac area which totals about 2,000 acres.
The Vegetable Queen of the Vegetable Growers of America Convention of 1956 was Shirley Brandt, daughter of the Almon Brandts of Imlay City.
Harold J. Schonfeld, Sr. was president of the Michigan Muck Farmers Association in the years 1942-44, Jack Schonfeld in 1956-57, Orien L. Brandt in 1966-67.
Arthur VanderPloeg was another early pioneer, coming here about the same time as Peter Laarman. There were probably more than we have here, and we are sorry we don’t have their names.
Muck Farmer’s Day was organized in 1930 by the Imlay City Chamber of Commerce and with the assistance of some of the growers, and in the early months of the year, January or February, was set aside so they could meet to discuss new methods of growing, test soils, hear special speakers and many other interests to them.