Griskie Farms continuing the small farm legacy in challenging times

Small farmers within St. Clair County are facing numerous challenges. 

They’ve seen their costs increase sharply in the last two years because of rising fuel and fertilizer prices, largely due to the war in Ukraine
Laura Rzanca with her parents Tom and Barbara and Laura’s kids Luke and Zoe.
Farmers took another hit in 2023 when over six inches of rain flooded fields, drowning some sections of crops. Crops that could be saved were left to dry, which resulted in feed for a spiking population of wild deer. Flooding also affected hay, which feeds livestock and is now at a premium price. In 2021, farm loss in Michigan accounted for 7% of the nation’s total

Griskie Farms in Goodells is run by Laura Rzanca and her parents, Tom and Barbara Griskiewicz. Rzanca has always had a love of farming. She continued to help her parents throughout the years while holding down a full-time job, but COVID-19 changed that. 

“After Covid hit, I lost my position in the hospital setting in 2021,” Rzanca says. “I decided to throw my whole heart into farming.”  

Laura continues the family tradition of small farming when many of her colleagues have abandoned agricultural life due to demanding conditions.

“There are not many small farms anymore, “Rzanca says. “Most big corporations have contracts with bigger farms for their goods.” 

As prices rise for materials such as fertilizer, fuel, flats, dirt, and boxes that go into farming, the prices of produce must also increase, Rzanca says.

“I see the produce in the stores and its prices,” she says. “I don't understand how some of the produce can be so cheap when there is so much that goes into each crop before it gets to the store.” 

Overview of Griskie Farms in Goodells, Michigan.

It can also be unpredictable. Every year comes with a new challenge, Rzanca says. 

“You never know how the weather will treat you from year to year or the seeds,” Rzanca says. “It is like gambling. Some years you make money and others you may lose money.”
Laura Rzanca working in one of the greenhouses on Griskie Farms.
Griskie Farms was established in 1947 by Rzanca’s grandparents, Richard and Mary Griskiewicz who met each other at Eastern Market when they were young. Richard and Mary married in 1947 and purchased a hundred-acre farm, clearing the property of trees by hand. Her grandparents farmed crops including yellow squash, leek, cucumbers, and Swiss chard. They also grew perennial flowers such as pansies, phlox, and forget-me-nots and filled their greenhouses with vegetable plants. 

In 1989, the family moved the 106-acre farm to St. Clair County and farmed 10 acres with vegetable crops in 2023. The rest of the property is rented to a grain farmer. 

“Our flower crop changed in the late 90's,” Rzanca says. “We stopped doing the perennials due to the environmental diseases that they are prone to.” 

Now, they grow hanging baskets in the greenhouses like spider plants, grapefruit ivy, wandering Jews, and geraniums. 

Laura has shaped the business with her ideas. She's added items and opened a home stand on the weekends in May to sell to the public but still goes to the Eastern Market to sell larger quantities. She is very proud of how successful her greenhouses are, along with her stand.  

Laura Rzanca with her mother Barbara and Laura’s kids Luke and Zoe transplanting seedlings.To attract customers in St. Clair County to her stand, Rzanca took a few business classes to learn how to market effectively on social media by sharing farm images throughout the year. She has made friends through her stand and social media and generated many new customers via word of mouth.

Over the years, she has enjoyed working with her grandparents, parents, and now her seven-year-old daughter, Zoe, who seems interested in continuing the family tradition. 
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Read more articles by Leslie Cieplechowicz.

Leslie Cieplechowicz is a photographer and writer who developed her crafts by working the streets of Detroit as a paramedic and shooting old, historical buildings she found on her runs. Her love of creating unique imagery led her across the state, then the United States, then globally, where she recently finished shooting in the country of Czechia, documenting its lively culture, friendly people, and ornate architecture. She currently works as an instructor after leaving the road and spreads her love of photography to her students. Her book, Detroit Revealed: A Different View of the Motor City, features obscure and amazing hidden gems of the city which is sometimes portrayed as unapproachable.