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Parsons Farm Selected as SBDC Small Business of the Year

Parsons Farm near Charlevoix has been owned by the same family since 1898 and is in the process of transitioning from the 4th to the 5th generation of the family. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is helping with that transition and an expansion of the business. The work they're doing has earned Parsons Farm recognition as the SBDC Regional Best Small Business of the Year. Watch the video to find out more.


Parsons Farm near Charlevoix is a Centennial Farm that has been owned by the Parsons family since 1898. Now 4th generation owners, Dave and Terri Parsons, are in the process of transitioning the farm to their daughters and son-in-law. They’re getting help doing that from the Northwest Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“The SBDC has helped give us an outline or the progressive steps that we need to go through so we can get it to the next generation,” said Dave Parsons.

The farm’s long history includes logging and a sawmill, dairy farming, corn and hay production, and a maple syrup operation, which is now their primary product and is sold under the Harwood Gold label. The 5th generation on the farm, sisters Katie and Amber and Amber’s husband Phil, have expanded the Harwood Gold line to include 15 new maple products with more to come. They’re also promoting agritourism on the farm and will eventually open an on-farm café or restaurant there. While Amber and Katie grew up on the farm and Phil is a professional chef who knows how to develop new products, they didn’t know much about running and expanding a business. So they turned to the SBDC for help.

“Helping us with the business plan was really important to help the new generation solidify what we wanted to do as a group and figure out what we needed to do first,” said Katie Untalan.

“I think it’s essential for people that don’t have a lot of business experience or a lot of knowledge on how it all works to get some advice from the SBDC,” said Phil Munday.

“Annie put us in contact with the right people we needed to be contacting so our legal structure and our financial structure is really clean,” said Amber Munday.

The work the Parsons family is doing to transition the farm to the next generation and expand the business has earned them recognition as the Northwest Michigan 2015 SBDC Regional Best Small Business of the Year.

“It’s really nice to be recognized for everything that we’re putting in because it’s a lot of work,” said Katie.

“It changed from my granddad to my dad and I took it to a different place, now it’s their turn,” said Dave. “The SBDC is helping us do that.”

There’s nothing quick about transitioning a multi-generational family farm from one generation to the next. 

“This has been more than a three year process working with the Parsons family and it’s been a privilege to work with and get to know the family and also help them work through some very difficult phases of the process,” said Annie Olds, SBDC Regional Director and Small Business Consultant. ” Transitioning a family business and especially a family farm is not an easy process and is something that more and more family businesses are facing on nearly a daily basis. It’s exciting to see a family successfully carry it out and have a hand in helping them carry this farm into a new chapter so their family’s legacy can continue to live on.” 

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- Susan Odom, Chair, Suttons Bay Township Planning Commission