Notable Edibles

Find Prepared Local Meals at Harvest Kitchen

By / Photography By Chris Stranad | December 15, 2015
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Mary Wessel
Mary Wessel

The aroma of sautéing celery, onion and carrots fills the air on a chilly morning at Harvest Kitchen, a prepared organic and local meal store in Ypsilanti’s bustling Depot Town. Three chefs work in the open kitchen in an almost choreographed dance born from experience working together. One busily chops a delicata squash, almost keeping time with Stop in the Name of Love playing on Pandora.

“We’ve got to have good music to get through the day here. Motown is a definite good go-to,” says owner Mary Wessel Walker.

She commends her hardworking staff. “I would be nowhere without these fabulous chefs. I do have to wear a lot of hats—many small business owners do— so that they can stay focused on making the food as delicious as possible.”

With a mission to provide fresh, seasonal, local, sustainably produced organic food, Harvest Kitchen features a rotating menu of specials and standard signature dishes each week.

“We always do a soup and a side dish, two omnivore and two vegetarian specials,” Wessel Walker explains. “Sometimes it’s more fancy. Sometimes it’s simple.”

Either way it’s an opportunity to highlight ingredients such as organic grass-fed meats, eggs, grains and vegetables in season or frozen in season for use in winter months. Seasonal entrees and sides may include rutabaga croquettes with kale, chicken potpie, curried chicken salad, gingery butternut bisque, sweet pepper and cheddar quiche, cauliflower potato curry, baked mac & cheese and Eddie’s spiral meatloaf. Harvest Kitchen also sells its own signature granola line with local wheat germ and honey.

The impetus to start the business came when Wessel Walker considered that people are more likely to eat healthier if they have a helping hand in the cooking. In 2007 she started the subscriber-based Community Farm Kitchen, an offshoot of the Community Farm of Ann Arbor CSA, in a rented commercial kitchen. By 2011 she outgrew that space and moved to Ypsilanti, where the business evolved into largely retail and became Harvest Kitchen.

harvest kitchen goods

Culling recipes from a vast array of cookbooks and personal favorites, Harvest Kitchen provides customers with the option to order online, by phone and to pick up prepared foods at their store or at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market. More than two dozen customers count as weekly subscribers.

"I doubt we’re taking market share from KFC, but I definitely think we’re helping local people connect with local farmers that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Wessel Walker says.

Recently, Wessel Walker’s focus turned to building wholesale relationships with several Ann Arbor markets, including Argus Farm Stop, both Whole Foods stores and the Busch’s Fresh Food Market on South Main Street.

“I think that’s really going to expand our reach,” she says, pointing out the current popularity of the prepared-food niche. “People are busy. They need a grab-and-go option. We can cover you to take the load off.”

Find out more at Harvest Kitchen

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