The New Farmers
The cafe's enormous success led McCabe to an even bigger project: Tilian Farm Development Center. "We were looking for ways to regenerate local farming," he explains, "and an incubator for farms seemed like a good idea, so I wrote a grant." With $71,000 from the USDA plus some smaller grants and a $15,000 loan from Selma, three farms broke ground on sixteen acres on Pontiac Trail in Ann Arbor Township in the spring of 2011.
One was Jill and Nate Lada's Green Things Farm. "We knew Jeff through the Selma Cafe 'cause I volunteered there religiously," says Nate.
"At the time we were on a trip around the country," remembers Jill, "and we got a call while we were in Death Valley that 'the farm incubator's started,' and hightailed it back."
"Two months later we were planting," says Nate.
Another was Ben Fidler and Meghan Milbrath's Bending Sickle Community Farm. "I was working on a farm in Grand Rapids, and I'd met Jeff and heard about Tilian, so I applied and was accepted," Fidler recalls. "The incubator was like the Wild West at first. It had an old barn that needed work on dilapidated property. We got it back to productive agriculture."