The Michigan State University Tollgate Education Center is one of only a few MSU facilities located in southeast Michigan. The site is unique for its open spaces, indoor and outdoor teaching areas, and extension staff resources. The Tollgate farm is one of the oldest farms in the Novi area. Settlement of the property dates back to 1832, when the 160 acres that would one day become the Michigan State University Tollgate Education Center were purchased by Samuel Bassett from the federal government for $1.25 per acre. John Bassett was Samuel Bassett’s son. John was the first resident of the farm. He married Ervilla Coomer in 1837. The couple moved to the farm shortly thereafter. John and Ervilla raised nine children. John was a prominent member of the Novi community. He farmed his property with oxen, was a township supervisor and operated a wagon shop on the corner of 11 Mile and Grand River. The Bassett family also started the Bassett School. The building that once housed the Bassett School still stands on the corner of Meadowbrook and 13 Mile. The Bassett family owned the property for over one hundred years. In 1951, Adolph and Ginger Meyer purchased the Bassett homestead and, over time bought property to recreate the original 160 acre parcel.
During the Meyer ownership, Tollgate was run as a small farm, producing beef cattle, hogs, chickens, corn and hay. The farm also served as a backdrop for many ads and commercials. The Meyers believed strongly in the importance of agriculture to society. To support these beliefs, the Meyers formed the Americana Foundation which donated 60 acres of the farm and all of the buildings to MSU in 1987. Access to the remaining 100 acres still owned by the Americana Foundation is made certain under a long-term lease.
Currently, MSU uses Tollgate for many research, teaching and demonstration projects. With the first identification of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in North America occurring in the Detroit area, Tollgate has played a role as a key site for Michigan State University and Ohio State University research efforts. Tollgate also houses many important MSU Extension offices. The SE Michigan District Coordinator’s office is located on the farm. Several district agents have their offices on the property also. Several hundred volunteers now help keep the farm looking great. While most of the volunteers come from MSU’s Master Gardener program, many others are attracted to the open spaces that constitute Tollgate. Volunteers keep the over twenty demonstration gardens in good order, run a maple syrup making program each spring and host several events for the public throughout the year. Tollgate is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 8:00 AM to dusk.