Steimel Brothers Protect 76 Acres of Prime Fruit-Growing Farmland
Al and Mark Steimel’s roots run deep on the land they have protected with a conservation easement in Leland Township. Their great-grandfather, Charles Johnson, bought the farm in 1890 and grew apples along with potatoes and crops like hay, corn and oats to feed the farm’s animals. The brothers have a deep attachment to this prime fruit-growing land, with its sweeping views of Lake Michigan peeking through the trees. It is, in fact, the highest point in Leland Township, says Al, as he points to a rise where his mother and aunt sunbathed or had a family picnic.
The extraordinary elevation deterred the brothers from growing cherries. “The cost of digging a 450-foot-deep well and buying a cherry shaker was out of our reach,” says Al. They continued to farm apples when they took over the land and in 1984 put in a number of new varieties for the fresh market. Most recently they have been replacing the older varieties with Gala, Fuji and Royal Red Honeycrisp and Royal Red. They keep a block of McIntosh apples specifically to supply Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay for the cidery’s famous “Smackintosh” brand.
“Four generations and much hard work later, the legacy that Al and Mark will leave is now anchored into Leelanau County’s agricultural history,” says Kim Hayes, Land Protection Specialist. “It is fantastic that the Steimel Farm’s ridge above Good Harbor Bay will provide food for future generations and protect acres of forestland as well.”
Their land is both immediately adjacent to and in close proximity to other protected farms and conservation easements held by the Leelanau Conservancy. Among them: the Stanton Farm just across the road as well as nearby Hohnke, Kelenske and Lanham conservation easements. These blocks of preserved lands help to keep agriculture viable in our county and provide critical habitat blocks needed for wildlife and ecological processes.
This project was funded by a combination of federal grant and Conservancy dollars, as well as a donation by the landowners, resulting in a bargain sale of the conservation easement. The federal grant program is called the Regional Conservation partnership program (RCPP). Stay tuned for a more in-depth story to come.