Jacob’s has been owned and operated by the Witkop family since 1892 and is recognized by the State of Michigan’s Historical Commission as a Centennial Farm.
It was in 1879 that Jacob Witkop suffered the loss of his merchant ship after it struck an iceberg and sank off the coast of Russia. Penniless, it took a year to work his way back home to Bierrum, Holland. With the need to establish a new life for his family he gratefully accepted the opportunity to come to America, helping bring a ship filled with hopeful immigrants to the new country. Arriving in America in the spring of 1881, he somehow found his way to Traverse City. Later that year he sent for his wife Pieterke, who was pregnant with their sixth baby, and their other five children. Their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean took six weeks.
For the next few years Jacob made his living working on the railroad and helping lay the first hard surface streets in Traverse City. Pieterke and the children helped where they could with chores such as picking blackberries near the south edge of town on “Boughey Hill”. The boys contributed to the family picking up work which included taking farmers dairy cows down to “East Bay” to water them.
With a dream for their own farm the family saved until they were able to purchase their first farm in 1887. The farm is located on what now is called “Harry’s Road” just a few miles west of Traverse City. Here the family settled in an old house on the site until their new home could be built. By 1892 Jacob was able to acquire his second farm
, just south of the original, which is located on what is now known as State Highway 72.
The first farm was passed on to Jacob’s son Hiram. The second farm was passed on to his son John and his wife Mary in 1918. On this abundant farm John and Mary raised five children of their own. As the 1900’s progressed there were opportunities for their children to move off the farm and find careers in the expanding American economy. John and Mary’s second son Hiram (named after his uncle Hiram) was asked to serve his country in World War II. This took him away from the farm from 1941 to 1945.
After the war ended Hiram married Jane Nelson of Leland, purchased the farm from his parents and raised four children. In addition to running the farm, Hiram and Jane established Northland Farm Equipment which they operated from the same site for some 35 years until 1983.
In 1995, Hiram and Jane’s only son Michael with his wife Laverna of Interlochen purchased the farm intent on it remaining part of the family. Jacob’s Farm had been owned by the Witkop’s for just over 100 years at that time. Mike and Laverna have kept the farm operating with an eye open for ideas to sustain its agricultural heritage into the future.
Beginning in 2006 they became more intentioned about this quest and began to seek like-minded people to partner in their sustainability effort. Early in the second century of ownership it was becoming increasingly difficult to see how to continue the Jacob’s Farm legacy.
Mike and Laverna launched Jacob’s Farm Enterprises, LLC in early 2008 creating their first maze that Fall.