Farmland Stories

Bardenhagen Farms: East Leland

Three Farms, 380 Acres Forever Protected in East Leland, M-204 Suttons Bay Area  For everyone who loves sweet, local strawberries and honey crisp apples, take heart in knowing that two of the farms that are major producers of the fruit have been forever protected. The Leelanau Conservancy signed agreements in December that will protect 380 […]

Casier Farm: Empire

Five Generation Casier Farm in Empire Forever Protected Casier Farm in Empire Township – Signed, Sealed & Delivered! It’s one of those marathon projects that make you smile when it’s all said and done. The cherries and maple syrup will seem that much more tasty now that the project has finally reached its conclusion. As […]

Egeler Farm: Eagle Highway

It wasn’t easy to arrange a meeting with farmers Mike and Jeanette Egeler. Both work seven days a week, most days well into the evening. Between their cherry farm, Mike’s excavating/snowplowing/firewood business and Jeanette’s exercise studio in Northport they’re pretty darn busy. We settled on a Saturday night in late May. I arrived at their spectacular farm, a rolling 116 acres tucked away down a gravel road off of Eagle Highway. Mike, 55, grew up in the area, and went to work in farming right after graduating from LelandHigh School. “I never wanted to do anything else,” he says, gazing toward the rows of cherry trees, their blooms nearly past. He loves being out in the open, and . . .

Esch Farm: East Leland

Driving out into the verdant hills of East Leland to the cherry farm owned by the Esch Family has always been a treat. I’ve made this trip maybe a half-dozen times since early 2011, but the trip I made in September felt different. For once, it was not about navigating the agency paperwork necessary to preserve their land; we were done with that. No, I was coming to talk with Larry and Jan Esch about their farm. I wanted to hear about their experiences working the farm and what it has meant to them to preserve it. As important, I was coming to express what is unfailingly hard to put into words: thank you. . .

Gregory Family: Cherry Bay Orchards

The year was 2005. Emily Gregory and Mark Miezio had been dating for just about four months. They were living in Chicago where Mark consulted as a civil engineer and Emily worked as an oncology hospice nurse. The couple decided to head north for the weekend to the Suttons Bay farm where Emily had grown up. She is the youngest child of Don and Ann Gregory who are part-owners of Cherry Bay Orchards. It was May; the cherry trees were in full bloom. […]

Kiessel Brothers: Center Highway

In the heart of the agricultural corridor along Center Highway sits the old Green farm.  The Leelanau Trail stretches back off to the east, and to the west is a beautiful, old red barn.  On a crisp fall morning, I pull off next to the barn to meet brothers Bill and Don Kiessel and Don’s wife Jan. I stand looking out over 40 acres recently sowed with rye and Kentucky bluegrass, lined with red flags in preparation for rows of tart cherries that will cover the landscape by next spring.  Don and Bill grow animated as they describe the . . .

L. Mawby Vineyards: Suttons Bay

L Mawby Vineyards Forever Protects 32-Acre Vineyard Near Sutton’s Bay Vintner Larry Mawby, and his new partner, Stuart Laing, have permanently protected 32 rolling acres near Suttons Bay, home of L. Mawby Vineyards. The donation of the conservation easement coincided with the year-end sale of half of his business to Stuart and his wife, Sharon. […]

Leatherman-Walker: Bingham

A Natural Choice: Jayne Leatherman Walker Leaves a Legacy Long before the local foods movement swept the nation and the words sustainable agriculture infiltrated our vocabulary, Jayne Leatherman Walker was devoting her life to these causes. Now, as she looks toward the close of her time on Earth, Jayne wants to make sure that her […]

McManus: East Leland

Thirty six years ago, Mike and Janet McManus made a promise. They were about to purchase Karl Kiessel’s farm along Eagle Highway—an ideal fruit-growing site overlooking Lake Michigan. “Karl was a very nice man and he could have sold that 80 to anyone, but we had this verbal deal,” says Mike. “He disliked the idea of houses built on this land.” And, Mike and Janet were of the same mind.

A handshake at Karl’s kitchen table sealed the agreement–as binding as any legal contract, says Mike. He and Janet kept the promise. But they worried about who would keep it after they were gone.


Newton Farm: near Gills Pier

Newton Family Protects a Farm With an Incredible View Take a couple of conservation-minded landowners, partner them with the Leelanau Conservancy, add member-supported and federal dollars and voila! Instant farmland preservation, right? Well, not exactly. The excitement has been building for months now about preserving the Newton Farm in the Gills Pier area—the site of […]

Olsen Farm: Bohemian Valley

Landmark 4th Generation Olsen Farm in Bohemian Valley: First 40 Acres Forever Protected Bill Olsen is a man of few words. But one phrase he says over and over again when talking about preserving his farm is, “That really means a lot to me.” It means the world to Bill to think he could preserve […]

Sedlacek: East Leland

Jean Sedlacek Protects Her Land: 76 Acres in Lake Leelanau Watershed Jean Sedlacek has great neighbors. She names a half-dozen people who she says “would come running if I called them, and be here inside of two minutes time.” But as much as she enjoys her neighbors, there’s something she enjoys even more: the privacy […]

Send & Emeott: Center Hwy

Send and Emeott Families Protect Prime Fruit – Growing Lands on Center Highway In a world where optimism seems to be in short supply these days, it was heartening to sit down with fruit farmers Jeff and Nita Send and their partners, Scott and Penny Emeott. The Suttons Bay farmers had taken a break from […]

Spinniken: East Leland

Alan and Nancy Spinniken Farm 1 of 3 Farms to Be Preserved With $1.5 Million Grant When you have a gravely ill child, the term “family farm” can take on a whole new meaning. Nancy and Alan Spinniken say that without the help of his extended farming family—particularly Alan’s father Robert—they never would have made […]

Stanek Farm–Bingham

PRESERVATION MEANS BUSINESS FOR STANEK FARMERS July 2002–For those who take the back roads into the county, the rolling orchards of the Stanek Farm along County Road 633 have long been the place where one senses a change. The last remnants of the city fall away, and, like plunging into an oasis of green, the […]

Stanton Farm–Centerville Township

The Stanton family has protected prime fruit growing acreage along Overby Road. Learn about the history of this family and this land and its importance to the agricultural fabric of Leelanau. […]