It could be said that Kerm Campbell’s path to becoming proprietor of Northern Michigan’s most unique destination for wine, spirits, hospitality, and cuisine was written in the stars.
“It all began when Kerm met Sallie—a Dutch girl and his future wife—when he began working for Dow Corning,” said Sherri Campbell Fenton, director of communications and public affairs at Black Star Farms and daughter of Kerm and Sallie Campbell. “Then, the two moved overseas where they developed a taste and appreciation for viticulture while visiting the wine caves of western Europe.”
Fenton visibly wells with pride as she recounts her parents’ opportunities abroad, return to Michigan, and passion to buy land and plant grapes on the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas. On March 31, 1998, Black Star Farms was officially founded. “Everything seemed to just fall into place,” said Fenton.
Twenty years later, Black Star Farms has grown into an award-winning, one-of-a-kind experience in Northern Michigan. The winery itself produces up to 450 tons— or about 45,000 cases of wine—per year on approximately 180 acres of vineyards. Amazingly, half of the wine produced annually is consumed by the 150,000 guests visiting their tasting rooms on the Old Mission and Leelanau Wine Trails. The remaining wine is distributed and sold in 35 states.
Black Star Farms, however, is more than just a winery. Much like the constellations from which it draws inspiration, Black Star Farms is comprised of several bright spots that together complete its picture. A luxury inn, event spaces, farm-totable café, equestrian facilities, high-end, wine-paired culinary events, two local production facilities and tasting rooms, a hiking and snowshoe trail through cherry groves, and more, embody the year-round experience Black Star Farms has evolved into after 20 years of operation.
“We have an exceptional wine, spirits, hospitality and culinary experience awaiting guests every day of the year,” she said.
As the company looks back on the past two decades, Fenton gives reverence to the fruits of the earth. “The earth gives us everything we build our business on,” said Fenton. “We take our responsibility to protect it seriously.”
Black Star Farms considers sustainability in every aspect of their business—from installing energy-efficient lighting, to Kerm Campbell, Proprietor of Black Star Farms environmentally-responsible farming practices, to serving farm-to-table cuisine from their Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP)-certified facilities. The winery named after a star is also in part powered by one—their recently constructed solar array provides nearly 20 percent of their power.
Fenton emphasizes the role of their electric cooperatives in those efforts, Cherryland Electric Cooperative and Wolverine Power Cooperative—who now power all members with 56 percent carbon-free energy. “We value our cooperative as a friend, partner, and community member,” said Fenton. “We’re not just a customer, and they take their responsibility to sustainability as seriously as we do.”
With a growing business and a commitment to sustainability, Black Star Farms looks to shine bright for another 20 years—and beyond.