When Kathy married into the family in 1974, her husband was not a farmer. Robert Burwinkel worked a much different full-time job while the farm was in the hands of his older brothers. The family experience an unexpected loss, and the responsibility passed to him.
Kathy Burwinkel threw herself into taking care of the farm by quitting her full-time job, a decision, she said she made and never looked back. She raised her four children while picking corn and selling fresh produce every day.
“There’s nothing else I’d rather do,” Kathy Burwinkel said. “It’s just such a nice life to know you’re feeding everybody.”
Though Robert Burwinkel retired a few years ago, his wife keeps the farm going strong day to day, keeping track of sales, inventory, payroll and more. She is helped by her two daughters, Kate and Karen.
“I don’t know what we’d do without her. She’s the backbone of the business,” Karen Burwinkel said.
The family held on to Edward Burwinkel’s dream and continue to provide the best produce they can, a feat they are proud of to this day.
“We’re very proud of what we do and who we are. Without a doubt,” Karen Burwinkel said.
At 14 years old, Mark Reist told his mom he didn’t want to work on a farm. He doubted he would enjoy picking corn all day long. Now 26 years old, he credits the Burwinkel family with teaching him tough work ethic and the art of discipline; two things he carried onto his professional career.
“They made me who I am today,” Reist said.
When Reist visits the farm, he likes to remind any teenage workers to enjoy their time picking corn, noting that it made his path in life easier, he said.
Nine years ago, Denise Beckman was once one of those teenage workers. Her family intertwines with the Burwinkels, and she found her way to the farm easily.
“I can’t imagine my life not working here,” Beckman said.
“It’s amazing to me to see these people who marry into the family becoming a part of this big farm operation and be willing to put forth the same work ethic as the actual family members who were born into it,” Karen Burwinkel said.
Including Beckman, many of Burwinkel’s workers have full-time jobs, including the Burwinkel grandchildren and their spouses.
Kate Burwinkel, the principal of Long Lake Elementary School in Traverse City, Mich., makes the trip home to Ross Twp. every summer to work in the fields for a month, even bringing her husband with her.
The farm finds it’s strength in tradition, Karen Burwinkel said.
“The 100th year is just the perfect timing to start this,” Karen Burwinkel said of the farm-to-table dinner. “Hopefully it becomes an annual dinner for us.”
WHAT: Farm-to-table dinner celebrating Burwinkel Farms' 100th anniversary
WHEN: 5:30 to 10 p.m. July 14
WHERE: Burwinkel Farms, 4359 Hamilton Cleves Road
MORE INFO: 513-738-1145 or email@example.com