42.9709° N, 82.4249° W
Local farmer digs in
By Patti Samar
Jim Eldridge knows how to make stuff grow.
Eldridge, of Wadhams, is owner of Sunrise Gardens, 3605 Lapeer Road in Port Huron. A lifelong third generation farmer, he began bunching asparagus for his grandparents on their working farm when he was just six years old.
“They had 50 acres of just asparagus and we used to bunch it for Kroger’s,” he said. He grew up helping his father, Richard Eldridge, on the family farm and Jim has made his living working in farming and produce most of his life.
Eldridge said he really began working regularly on his father’s farm when he was 10 years old but his father wouldn’t allow him or his siblings to drive a tractor until they were 16. “It’s too dangerous,” he said.
His brother now operates the original family farm in Capac and Eldridge also farms on the land there. “We are the only potato farmers left in St. Clair County,” he said of his family operation.
Sunrise Gardens offers three seasons worth of primarily locally grown or locally sourced plants, produce and holiday greenery.
From April until June, he offers spring plantings at his retail location including flower baskets, flats, Mother’s Day baskets and Memorial Day grave pots, among other items. He reopens the shop on Labor Day weekend each year and begins selling potatoes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and corn stalks, along with mums and fall plantings. After Halloween, he transitions to holiday home greenery that he creates himself, along with a selection of locally grown Christmas trees.
Eldridge spends his summer months working the land for his fall crops. He looks forward to the fall when he opens Sunrise Gardens and his customers return.
“I’m a people person,” he said. “I like helping people.” He notes that his customers return, year after year, because they understand the quality they will receive. “With the produce, if I wouldn’t buy it, then it shouldn’t be there. I take care of it like that.”
And because farming is a gamble, Eldridge and many in his family have, along the way, also worked other jobs to fill in during slow times. He has worked in produce departments at grocery stores, for landscaping companies and in factories along the way.
But the root of his livelihood has always involved working the land.
“I like being my own boss and meeting people,” he said. “But you’ve gotta like farming to do it. It’s a lot of work. It’s a gamble. It’s a lot of hands-on and a lot of labor.”