Northern Michigan is the world's "Cherry Capital". Don't believe us, just fly up and visit; the Traverse City's airport is named "Cherry Capital." Even though Northern Michigan is the "Cherry Capital", the sweet-spot for growing is Leelanau County. Jutting out 30 miles from Traverse City into the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan, Leelanau is a place folks write songs about. The name roughly translates into "Land of Delight" in Swedish; the LaCross and Steinmel familes found the namesake to be true when they arrived in the mid-1800s and started farming the land, finding it just perfect for Cherry trees.
Nearly two centuries later, Glenn LaCross and his partner, Al (a Steinmel), have more than 800 acres making up Leelanau Fruit Company. "I farm because it is all I ever wanted to do since watching my Grandpa and Uncle Bob," says Glen. Cherry farming never really begins or ends it just is---even in the bone chilling cold of a North wind off the lake. Glen explains, "The cold winters and deep snow keep spring from starting too early when frost could kill the buds and this is the best time for us to get out and prune the trees."
Even after the harvest the work is not yet done. Leelanau Fruit still processes all their cherries by hand, although a conveyor belt now helps, ensuring Brownwood gets only the ripest plumpest cherries around.
Don't worry, while, Glen and Al are thinking about the days when they don't have to get up at 5am to check the fog in the orchards, there is another line of LaCrosses and Steinmels at the ready to provide their finest fruit to Brownwood. Glen's son, Ben, is already in the business, managing the orchards day to day. Even though Al's sons are off serving our country (one at the Department of Natural Resources and the other a 2nd Lt in the Army), "both of them appreciate the hard work of farm life," Glen says of the boys who are looking to come back home for the family business.
Even if you have never visited the nation's Cherry Capital, with the first bite of Brownwood Farm's Cherry BBQ Sauce, Cherry Salsa or Simply Delicious Cherry Fruit, you will taste why they called it the "Land of Delight".