The Bronkema Family
Shady Side Farm is home to Mike and Lona Bronkema in Holland, Michigan. The Bronkemas have been farming part-time since 1988, and full-time since 1996. Together they have also raised four children, who are now grown.
Shady Side Farm takes pride in farming biologically and paying careful attention to the soil and its health. Since 2010, their crops have been certified organic through Global Organic Alliance. Their Belted Galloway cattle are also certified organic, and they have been toying with the idea of certifying their lambs in the near future as well. They have also been certified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) since the programs beginning.
The sheep program at Shady Side Farm consists of a few Suffolk ewes and around eighty Polypay ewes. The wool from their sheep is processed at a Michigan mill and is sold as yarn, roving for spinning, and bedding. They sell these goods directly to crafters and use some of the wool for their own crafting as well. Mike is famous for being the “Sock Guy,” as he has an antique sock knitting machine that he uses to make brightly colored wool socks for sale.
The majority of the Shady Side Farm lambs are marketed directly to customers as grass-fed freezer lambs. The rest are shipped to an auction or lamb pool or processed and sold with their other goods at local farmers’ markets. Multi-species and rotational grazing practices are an important aspect of their production. The Bronkemas feel that their multiple groups of sheep and cattle are not separate enterprises but are intertwined to capitalize on the soil health building abilities that their livestock bring to the table.
The Brokema family is passionate about informing consumers about the agriculture industry and how their animals are cared for. Each year, their family hosts a shearing day open house, which although was once small, now attracts a crowd of nearly four hundred people. In early March, families come and watch the shearing and skirting, pet and hold early lambs, and just hang out in the barn. They also have a small farm store where visitors can watch artists demonstrate spinning, felting, and other fiber arts, and buy farm products, including wool items.
Matt Scramlin was elected Vice President of the MSPA at the January meeting. Matt comes to us from Oakland County. Now living on the family farm in Holly, Michigan Matt finds himself loving what he does. His dad and Uncle were dairy farmers. Mom had sheep. So, when Matt was three years old, they got sheep. Starting first with Dorsets and Cotswold sheep, adding Montadales in the early 80’s. It seems that Southdowns found their way to the Scramlin Farm when Matt’s sister Stacy was ready for 4-H and she decided to try a breed of her own; 30 years later it’s the breed that the family specializes in.
While other kids were going to summer camp and up North for vacations, Matt and his sisters, Stacy and Lisa, found themselves competing in sheep shows in 8 county fairs as well as State and National shows. That was family time for the Scramlins. Not only did their family find it great quality time together with family and friends it was a source of income for the youth. In 2002, Matt graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Animal Science; paid for with money he had earned showing sheep. Growing up with family friends and a college roommate in the auction business, Matt also pursued his interest in auctioneering. He graduated from Reppert’s School of Auctioneering in 2002.
Out of college, Matt found work at Michigan Farm Bureau as a Regional Representative. He later moved to Washington, D.C. to take a position with American Farm Bureau as their leadership development trainer. In 2011, he made the decision to return to Michigan and the family farm. Today Matt has a flock of 55 purebred Southdown ewes and an additional 30 commercial ewes. Along with the sheep, Matt helps his cousin putting up 800 acres of hay and straw.
For many years he has been active with the Oakland County Farm Bureau and their Project Red event; a two-day event that draws several hundred school children each year. Matt’s parents remain very active in the new Michigan State Fair. Matt sells hay and straw there and also narrates the sheep shearing demonstrations. He also finds himself judging National and International sheep shows. He loves working with kids and sharing his knowledge of the animals with local youth. His favorite judging event so far has been judging at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Kentucky where the brightest and best young showman compete. He’s looking forward to going to California in August to judge his first sheep show at the oceanside.
His interest in MSPA comes from growing up in the industry and looking forward to attending the Sheep Symposium each year and recognizing the value of membership. He feels the best way to get the most value from an organization is to be involved. While he’s clearly passionate about working with youth in agriculture, he looks forward to helping with several facets of the organization while on the Board. Matt is sure to be an asset to our organization as he continues to show sheep both in Michigan and Nationally. He’s looking forward to show season where he can spend time with family including his two nieces and two nephews.