Our island icon moves into its 244th year as a family farm and 101st as a nursery. Photos by Ian Pokriefka
Michigan’s oldest family-operated farm is looking to make some exciting improvements and additions this season.
From growing the hay that fed the Detroit trollies’ horses to raising the turkeys that fed our armed forces during WWII, the centuries-old Grosse Ile farm turned plant nursery, Westcroft Gardens, has seen plenty of changes in its time.
Now, under the management of Erica Lee Jackson, an 8th generation descendent of Westcroft’s first owners, the idyllic garden has rebranded to Westcroft Gardens and Farm, “Where moments blossom and memories grow”. They’ve also updated their logo to depict the farm’s iconic barn that was built nearly 100 years ago and stands as a symbol of Westcroft’s resilience and longevity.
Jackson says when her aunt, Denise de Beausset, retired in 2016 after 30 years of managing Westcroft, the time was ripe for change. “For the bulk of our history, we were a diversified farm, and we are attempting to get back to those roots in a way that enhances the things we are doing already.”
As a part of the many enhancements, patrons who wish to rent space at the gardens will soon have access to an event focused greenhouse called the “Azalea House,” named for the hybrid varieties of the flowers created by 5th generation owner, Ernest Stanton.
“Our goal was to turn this into a place that is very open and welcoming to the community,” says Jackson, adding that the greenhouse will also provide Westcroft an opportunity to donate space to community benefiting organizations as well as increase their educational and workshop offerings.
Other new installations include a pollinator garden where people will be able to sit and enjoy the variety of wildlife that visit. This year Jackson intends to plant 66 sweet cherry trees that will beautify the garden and eventually become a pick-your-own orchard. Then next year, a field of lavender will be planted and eventually open for customers to pick.
These additions mark one of the largest and most significant changes to Westcroft since the 1920s and will give the community fresh reasons to visit the farm and gardens. “We’d like for families to be able to come at different months within the growing season and have a different experience each time,” says Jackson. With varying harvest times, these changes will add a pleasant variety to Westcroft’s existing seasonal offerings, such as the Halloween Hayrides that run through October. These hayrides, established by Denise de Beausset, have become a tradition Downriver over the last 20 years, and it’s expected the additions will help families create even more fond memories.
With these updates, Jackson ensures that the annuals, perennials, veggies, herbs, and Greenleaf Compound Acid Soil Conditioner that customers have come to look forward to every year will continue to be available and that Westcroft will be focusing even more on those products that can’t be found at the big box stores. There will also be a new waterproof and re-sealable compound bag featuring Westcroft’s new logo next year.
And while these additions are something to look forward to in a world filled with uncertainty, Westcroft has already adopted new ways customers can shop and interact with the business, including Facebook and phone orders as well as video chat personal shopper appointments and curbside pickup.
As Westcroft Gardens and Farm moves into their 244th year as a family farm and 101st as a plant nursery, these updates reinforce that this community staple has no intention of going anywhere but forward. “We are incredibly proud of our history, and it’s because of this pride that we want to succeed,” says Jackson. “We just want to make sure that we’re here for the next generation; and I think that these changes walk the line between honoring our history as well as paving the road for generations to come.” •