Blog, News

Farming for a Cause: Lee & Karen Swift

A flourishing community depends on healthy connections and healthy lives. In the warm months, South Michigan Food Bank reinvests in the local community by acquiring fresh produce from local farmers to put in our fresh food boxes at Fresh Food Distributions. These partnerships support local and mean that the groceries we give our neighbors in need are as fresh as possible. We partner with local farms, like Swift Pumpkins & Produce, to source over 300,000 pounds of fresh food throughout the summer.

Lee and Karen Swift started Swift Pumpkins & Produce with a small pumpkin patch in their backyard. When the couple instantly sold pumpkins from their roadside stand, they knew they could expand. Over the next twelve years, the Swifts broadened their crops to include squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and even more fresh, delicious food — and connected with South Michigan Food Bank. 

They began their partnership with South Michigan Food Bank when they realized they had a huge surplus of peppers. “We couldn’t let them go to waste,” Karen said; so they connected with South Michigan Food Bank to bring fresh, healthy options to those in need. The first year contracting with South Michigan Food Bank, they supplied 5,000 pounds of fresh produce for the community.

“We do this for the love of farming,” Lee said, as he remembered making the transition from his job at a local factory to full-time farming. As they consistently planted vegetables in greater quantities and of new variations, they expanded their farm to their current 46 acres.

Lee & Karen Swift on their farm in Bronson, MI

“The Food Bank helped us grow to become more of a full-time operation” they said. “It’s made us whole,” pointing to the acres of land set aside for crops to be grown for our Fresh Food boxes. When our Food Bank drivers go to pick up produce from their farm, it’s been picked either that morning or the day before — so our clients are receiving the freshest produce possible. We buy over 200,000 pounds of this fresh produce every year, including squash, green beans, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and zucchini.

One thing they love most about their partnership with the Food Bank is that they know their life’s work is directly helping those in the local community. Karen witnessed this last summer, as one of the women she works with received a box from our Fresh Food Distributions. The woman mentioned she had an eggplant in her box, and Karen knew that came her very own farm.

 “It’s gratifying,” Lee & Karen said, knowing that the produce they grow is a crucial part of how South Michigan families can eat nutritious, well-balanced meals. “It’s something we never dreamed of.”

Lee & Karen have always been philanthropists through their farming, donating pumpkins, produce, and gift certificates to local churches and organizations. Last year, they made sure every elementary schooler at Bronson Community Schools could celebrate Halloween by donating a pumpkin to every child, totaling 600 pumpkins!

Catch Lee & Karen in Bronson, MI every fall at their pumpkin patch for fall games, corn mazes, and, of course, all shapes and sizes of pumpkins and gourds! Check out the details here:


Lee & Karen stand in front of land that will be utilized for South Michigan Food Bank crops.

We are so thankful for Lee & Karen and their work to ensure that South Michigan families have fresh foods for nutritious meals.

Help families get fresh food this summer and support local farmers like Lee & Karen by making a gift to the 2022 Family Fund.

Select Language »