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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, 21 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 clientele. Without 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 CraneAlbert 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 every Spring.

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 spray consultant.

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 260 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 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 Crane Orchards.

For the last twenty-nine 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.

Cranes FarmCome 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 two red raspberry varieties now. Raspberry picking is available until the first hard frost. We also offer two blueberry varieties for picking. Starting around July 10th and lasting about four weeks. We have a really nice crop in our young bushes. 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 flowers.

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. We also offer gourds, dried gourds and other Fall decorating supplies through mid-October.

Check our Picking Schedule for 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.

Thank you,
Gary and Sandy Crane

 

All contents © The Gary Crane U-Pick Farm unless otherwise indicated.

6017 124th Ave,
Fennville, Michigan 49408
(269) 561-5126

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