Nestled in the very southeast corner of
Saugatuck Township and just west of Fennville, Michigan lies
a beautiful small farm known as The Gary Crane Farm, or "Cranes
U-Pick." If you can visualize lush, green, rolling hills
planted in precise blocks of dwarf fruit trees, wooded areas,
a beautiful pond and, at the very back of the 105 acre farm,
10 acres of assorted blueberry bushes.
This is one of the most
beautiful places you will ever visit. Countless people have visited
and enjoyed the fresh air, feeling of serenity and the bountiful
fruits and vegetables of this farm.
It is becoming more of
a rarity as small fruit farms are continually going out of business
at alarming rates. To find a small, working farm much less one
that welcomes the public is rare indeed. But welcome the public
we do. We understand completely the importance of our u-pick
them, we could not continue farming. Offering u-pick is the
only way we can get a fair price for the quality fruit we produce.
The Crane Farm was purchased in 1936 by
Albert and Letha Crane from John and Bessie Whitbeck. Albert
was on winter break from Michigan State University when his
father, Henry Blakeslee Crane, suggested he purchase the farm.
Albert and Letha agreed and, with the help of Blakeslee and
Muriel Crane, bought the farm with no down payment and a monthly
payment of $10.00. At the time, Albert worked for his father
for a salary of $10.00 per week and his wife, Letha, worked
as a secretary for Michigan Fruit Canners for a salary of $17.00
per week. Michigan Fruit Canners still operates today only known
as Agrilink Foods.
Albert and Letha started reconstructing
the farm by clearing the land of most of the old fruit trees
which were planted in the 1860's. These plantings included large
orchards of Quince, a golden, hard apple-shaped fruit used in
making jelly and preserves, and Golden Delicious apples.
They resculpted the land
with a bulldozer and dynamite and started planting apple, cherry
and peach trees along with blueberry bushes. They also experimented
with asparagus which never really became a lucrative crop for
them. However, to this day, asparagus grows in all the older
orchards remaining on the farm, and we enjoy fresh picked asparagus
In 1948, a man named Luther Brock
happened by and applied for a job. Albert's earth moving business
was starting to take off so Luther was hired. Luther lived and
worked on the farm as manager and overseer for twenty-three years.
He made decisions on how most of the farm tasks would be completed.
He was aided by John Stover whom Albert and Letha hired as a
In 1970, Cranes U-Pick was started
by Albert and Letha and was managed by Letha until 1973 when
they sold the farm to Albert's younger brother, Robert Fenn Crane
Sr., and it became part of Crane Orchards. A few years later,
Robert began to feel the rigors of farming -- the long, grueling
hours of trying to plant, spray, trim, harvest and market the
fruit from 300 acres.
In 1974, Robert asked his oldest son,
Gary, if he would consider becoming a partner and return to
the farm. Gary had married and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida
where he was working as a tool and die machine operator. Gary
thought that the last thing he wanted was to go back to the
farm, but that's exactly what happened. Gary and his wife, Sandy,
moved back to Fennville and worked on the farm for ten years.
Gary worked as farm overseer which entailed all spraying of
trees, planting new orchards, removal of old orchards, hiring
and firing help, running picking crews, pruning orchards in
winter, and hauling fruit to various brokers. Sandy helped organize
and operate the Pie Pantry Restaurant.
Gary and Sandy worked
for Bob and Lue until 1985, when they purchased the Crane Farm
from them and, once again, the Crane Farm was separated from
For the last twenty-four years, Gary and
Sandy have been changing the landscape of the farm. It has now
become known as The Gary Crane U-Pick Farm or "Cranes U-Pick."
Even though farmers in the Grand Rapids area were already using
dwarf tree planting systems, Gary was one of the first farmers
in our area to incorporate dwarf fruit tree systems on his farm.
He also was one of the first farmers to own a narrow wheelbase,
four-wheel drive tractor with a charcoal filtered air conditioned
cab. Even though many farmers in the area scoffed at the idea
of high- density plantings, especially in peach orchards, let
alone apple orchards, they came to watch when we planted our
first dwarf apple orchard.
Not only had they never
seen apple trees planted six feet apart in rows with the distance
between rows of sixteen feet, they were skeptical of the ability
of this narrow, tiny tractor to perform. Now, most successful
farmers in the area have incorporated these methods of orchard
planting and also the use of smaller, four-wheel drive tractors
with air-conditioned cabs. This may seem frivolous, but take
into consideration these facts: farmers spend long hours on
their tractors and an air-conditioned, filtered cab provides
protection from heat, rain, spray material and dust. We look
at this as a form of life insurance.
With determination and perseverance,
Gary and Sandy have worked hard as a team to cultivate the Gary
Crane Farm into the beautiful, well organized, enjoyable experience
it is today.
Come and visit our farm. Business hours
start in mid-July with Transparent apples, an heirloom variety
known for making gourmet apple sauce, and red raspberry picking.
We offer three raspberry varieties now. Raspberry picking is
available until the first hard frost. Peach picking starts in
late July with Risingstar, followed by Redstar and Red Haven
the first week of August. We now have twelve peach varieties
in production with peach picking going into September. We also
offer nectarines, plums, sweet corn, garden produce and cut
Fall apple picking starts
the first week of September. We now offer fourteen Fall varieties
including Honeycrisp. Picking normally lasts until mid-October.
We also produce an extensive pumpkin patch, specializing in
large pumpkins. We also offer gourds, dried gourds, gourd art
and other Fall decorating supplies through mid-October.
After the u-pick closes,
and if we have extra fruit, we move into our barn. We offer
the same products: applies, gourds, chestnuts, and gourd art
until November first. Check our Picking
a more complete calendar and be sure to call us at (269) 561-5126
to confirm weather conditions before making a long drive.
Come and visit our farm
and create a tradition with your family. You will love the experience.