Leaning Shed Farm: Couple Abandon City Life for Farming

The Dyreks established Leaning Shed Farm, which only grows “fun” food and has a soft spot for tomatoes.


| Winter 2014-15



leaning shed farm garlic

Dave Dyrek holds garlic grown at his Leaning Shed Farm in rural Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Photo by Quint Smith

Leaning Shed Farm has evolved into something that owners Dave and Denise Dyrek never envisioned when they bought their 30-acre piece of property in rural Berrien Springs, Michigan.

While living and working in Chicago, the couple bought their farm in 2004 as a weekend getaway from the city. They wanted a place to simply drive a couple of hours from their home in Humboldt Park and then hang out at the beach along the shores of Lake Michigan just a few miles away. Planting their first vegetable garden at the farm changed their way of thinking and their way of life.

Before buying their rural property, Dave owned and operated a successful heating and air conditioning business in Chicago while Denise worked in the hotel industry there. After working in the city all week, they looked forward to spending their weekends in the quiet solitude of their pastoral setting. Although not planning to “farm,” the Dyreks planted a 30 by 30 foot garden to grow vegetables for their own use. They discovered they enjoyed working the soil, and the garden grew bigger each year. Over time, the garden grew to the point that Dave and Denise were spending their entire weekends working in the garden and never even making it to the beach. 

The gardens continued to expand to the point that Dave decided in 2009 to sell his business in the city and devote his time to gardening. Denise kept her hotel job and continues to commute back and forth, but spends as much time as possible helping Dave on the farm and at the farmers markets. 

Visiting the farm was a real treat for my cohorts and me. Driving up to their property and pulling into the driveway, we could immediately see the namesake of the farm. What first greets the eye is truly an old storage shed so off kilter that it is held up on one side by a huge maple tree, but it is still used as storage for tools and equipment. Meeting Dave and Denise made the drive to southwest Michigan worth the effort. Both were congenial, friendly, and obviously happy as they gave us a complete tour of their gardens and explained their crops and farming methods to us.

The idea of farming in Michigan brings to most people’s minds short growing seasons and a colder climate. However, the proximity of nearby Lake Michigan tempers the climate of the area and allows for a somewhat lengthy time frame for growing a large variety of fruits and vegetables. As far as fruits go, there are pears, apples, and a few acres of grapes on the property.  The Dyreks, however, do not put any time and effort to caring for the grapes because they contract those out to the Welch’s company. They prefer to focus on growing heirloom vegetables for their expanding clientele of loyal chefs and farmers market customers. They have even removed a number of acres of grapes to make room for expansion of their vegetable gardens. 





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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