Grand Rapids area farmers make the leap to restaurant ownership

Eastown’s Trillium Haven Restaurant contributes to a local food system.

When Anja Mast and Michael VandenBrug started their Trillium Haven farm in Jenison, Mich. 20 minutes west of Grand Rapids in 2001, their dream was to connect people with the land and to sustainable farming practices. They accomplished this through their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, where families and individuals purchased a share in the farm in the winter, and then received 22 weeks of produce from the farm during the June through October growing season.  

During the eleven years running their CSA, Mast and Vandenburg also added restaurant and grocery store accounts, sold produce at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market, started a retail and wholesale organic plant line, and offered members and the public cooking and canning classes. In July 2012, they opened their Trillium Haven restaurant with two other partners in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood.

Mast and Vandenburg say, “Having a restaurant in the city dedicated to connecting the urban consumer with their neighboring farmers seemed like a great way for our farm to continue its mission of growing community." The Trillium Haven restaurant sources 80 percent of their meats from Mast and Vandenburg’s farm, purchases produce from 25 local farmers, and features local Michigan beers, wines and spirits.

Chef Joel Wabeke, formerly of the Grand Rapids J.W. Marriott Hotel’s Six One Six restaurant, created a healthy yet comforting menu of Midwestern classics like meatloaf, and pork and beans for Trillium Haven restaurant. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are all available, but not highlighted as "different" from the rest of the menu.  Desserts are portioned for finishing a meal with a more fruit-based sweets like fresh-berry crumbles or fruit with shortcake. Meal prices range from $10 to $30 per person.

Trillium Haven is located at 1429 Lake Drive in Grand Rapids, Mich. in the newly restored Kingsley Building by local green developer Guy Bazzani. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. and for Sunday brunch from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. They feature both indoor and outdoor seating. Reservations are accepted but room is left for walk-ins. For more information on their menu, you can find them on Facebook.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the new MSU Center for Regional Food Systems are working to grow the local food movement in Michigan and create community-based food systems. Resources on this topic can be found on the Michigan Good Food website. People interested in starting new food-related businesses can access business planning assistance and other resources through the MSU Product Center.