The Lively Farm Story


Jim and Kelly Lively began their life together in the 1990’s. They raised four daughters on a 5 acre parcel of what was many years ago the Bow Farm (originally about a 200 acre plot with orchard, horses, and who knows what else). When the two met, Kelly was on the land and an elected official in Leelanau County. After considering other ideas, they decided to stay on the rural piece of land and Jim would commute to his Traverse City job. By the late ‘90s, Kelly determined she was better off at home and truly happiest when working outside, particularly with flowers. Eventually, about ⅓ acre of the 5 acres was fenced and worked to grow flowers, which Kelly managed and sold at first at farmer’s markets, but eventually becoming a designer for weddings and special events.

For several years Kelly operated the one-woman farm called Leelanau Flowers at The Lively Gardens. Kelly tended the flower field, created floral arrangements for weddings and events, and had four children at home. In 2009 she fell into a part time job with Cherry Capital Foods and began working on her passion to build a local food system. By 2010 she had gone full time and the challenge of farming, designing with long weekends of work,  and a family were too much so she suspended the Leelanau Flowers Business. 

By then the garden had been fenced quite beautifully, the soil rich in compost, and weeded with care. But nature took over the show and slowly but surely quack grass and other annual weeds encroached and dominated. A corner of the garden continued to be tended by Kelly's sister, who kept a productive garden there for nearly 20 years. 

Eventually, Jane took charge of a few beds during the summer to grow cutting flowers for the roadside farm stand, and in 2015, Jim and Jane raised four pigs in a section of the garden, making a significant dent in the plant population in that area. But, truly, much of the garden was fallow and growing some of the healthiest ‘weeds’ around.

It wasn't until 2017 that Jane (daughter number three) relocated to the Lively property and sought to re-establish the entire fenced in lot for growing vegetables and, of course, flowers. She offered vegetables weekly to community members, but mostly continued dreaming up the future of the space. Jane’s relationship to farming stems from growing up on the flower farm and helping with production, an iconic visit to Greenfield Village in Detroit, and mostly from her time spent working on nearby organic vegetable farms. For two summers, while in high school, Jane worked at Sweeter Song Farm in Cedar, Michigan, where she fell in love with the beauty of the open sky above the serenely vast fields of vegetables and fruits. She knew, following that first summer, that she wanted to be a farmer. Following Sweeter Song, with two seasons at Meadowlark Farm in Lake Leelanau, Jane felt equipped with knowledge to serve in the creation of her own operation. 

In 2018 The Lively Farm launched their first CSA season with 8 proud customers. As it is, the farm offers CSA shares, farm membership, attends farmers markets, sells to restaurants, and employs Jane full time and two other part time employees. The expansion and growth of the farm has been slow but steady and with each passing year it begins to feel more and more like the home we have all always wanted and dreamed of. 


Kelly still works a "regular" job in public service, but she also manages all of the flower things in the operation. Jim has "retired" from his job of 22 years and has joined the family businesses: supporting the farm and Backyard Burdickville (as well as being our general "Lively-Up-er"). All four sisters now live here again, and additions of little Lively's are mixed into the pot. With so much going on, so much family to love, so much community to thank, we are so very grateful to be here. 


There is so much more to really tell the fulllstory of how we've gotten to where we are today. This endeavor has been and will always be a labor of love and an exercise in learning as you go and accepting that life has a propensity to live.  


We thank the land, we acknowledge it was stolen years ago from the native people of this place, and we take great responsibility in regenerating the microorganisms as well as the sprit of this place.