Farm Progress

Dussel’s Farm Market sets March as target date to reopen.

November 23, 2018

4 Min Read
CLOSED FOR SEASON: A pickup truck crashing through a greenhouse dashed hopes of Dussel's Farm Market in Cassopolis being open for Christmas.Photos by Mark Dussel

By Stan Maddux

After a challenging fall harvest, a major fire Nov. 4 at Dussel’s Farm Market in southwest Michigan couldn’t steal Christmas. And the spirit of the season still prevailed when a Dodge pickup drove through a greenhouse three days later.

Now, the mission is replacing the destroyed structures for a March reopening, says Mark Dussel, owner of the market he started 20 years ago near Cassopolis.

Dussel says he will try to carry a limited stock of Christmas trees this year. ‘’It won’t be what we normally do,’’ he says. 

Handmade holiday decorations and other merchandise for the season normally offered at the market will be available only through orders from churches, schools and select individuals who resell the items to raise money, Dussel says.

Christmas won’t be the same for a strong base of local customers who made the market a yearly destination.

“It’s a small town; everybody’s been there,” says Jeff Locke, chief of the Cassopolis Fire Department, who helped put out the early-morning blaze.

Pickup slams through greenhouse
Just three days after the fire, a pickup crashed through the side of a 30-by-100-foot greenhouse that was not damaged by the fire. The building was being converted into a makeshift store for the Christmas season.

The truck didn’t stop until going halfway out the opposite end of the building where many of the plants and flowers at the market, including poinsettias for the holidays, were grown.

Dussel says the truck likely would have gone clear through both sides of the greenhouse and kept going had it not struck a pallet of thistle seed. “It slowed them down,” Dussel says.

Two men and a woman fled on foot from the truck, which sustained heavy front-end damage.

Lt. Tom Jacobs with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office said the woman quickly returned to the crash site. But it took several hours to locate the men during a search led by a Michigan State Police K-9 unit.

Kerry Richards, 42, of Three Rivers and Ivan Hearld, 47, of Edwardsburg are charged with possession of meth. An additional charge of resisting and obstructing justice was leveled against Richards, the alleged driver of the truck. The woman was not charged, according to police.

Jacobs says the truck was rounding a curve on M-60 when it veered left onto the property.

He said a blood sample was not taken to determine if the driver was under the influence of meth, because the drug possession charge leveled against him is a felony, while driving impaired is a misdemeanor.

“It’s going to get them far more time in jail,” Jacobs says, while noting that pipes commonly used for smoking meth were recovered from the vehicle.

No one injured
Dussel says the truck went airborne and came within 50 feet of a fire inspector with State Farm Insurance, who was combing through the charred remains from the fire.

Several people helping to set up the makeshift store left just minutes prior to the truck busting through.

“It was a blessing from God that nobody got hurt,” Dussel says.

The greenhouse, he says, was not repairable because of the metal frame being old and completely twisted.

The truck also destroyed a cash register, countertop and other makeshift store items, according to Dussel.

Cause of fire unknown
The cause of the blaze starting in one of two additions to the main structure was still undetermined, says Penn Township Fire Chief James Bogue. However, there is no evidence of foul play.

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DESTRUCTION: Dussel’s Farm Market sustained major damage from a Nov. 4 fire. The plan is to tear down and replace both the market and the greenhouse.

“What the fire didn’t get, the smoke, heat and water took care of the rest,” Bogue says.

Much of the sweet corn, pumpkins, cantaloupe and other produce in the store at 21765 M-60 were grown on-site.

There was also meat from beef cattle raised on the property, along with canned goods, milk and other grocery items. Trees along with wreaths and garland made there out of fresh greenery were among the holiday merchandise.

“It was a nice place to go and good place to shop,” Bogue says.

Looking ahead, Dussel says the new market will be slightly larger than the old 4,200-square-foot-building, allowing for expansion of the produce section, the mainstay of the operation. It will also feature higher cathedral ceilings and upgraded fixtures.

Dussel, who raises mostly soybeans and field corn, says weather patterns created a difficult harvest, making the fire and crash even harder to endure.

“It’s just something where you go, ‘Why me?’” Dussel says. “Why is this happening? But as farmers, we’re resilient, and we’ll come back bigger and stronger.”

Maddux writes from New Buffalo.

 

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