MARSHALL — On Sept. 15, local farmers Robert and Luetta Crane were inducted into the Michigan Farmers Hall of Fame at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds.
“It was a nice honor,” said Rebecca Crane, Robert and Luetta’s daughter. “Farmers are becoming fewer and farther between. When we were kids, there was farms from here to the lakeshore. So, I’m really happy they’re honoring farmers and farmers’ families, because it’s becoming a thing of the past.”
Robert F. Crane was born in 1928. His father, AB Crane, was a fruit farmer. Robert continued the tradition with his wife Luetta, who died in 2015.
“She passed away in the farmhouse on a beautiful day in January,” said Rebecca. “And it’s just the way she would’ve wanted it.”
Today, Crane Orchards has over 17 different varieties of apples, 10 varieties of peaches and sweet cherries for pickers to choose from.
“It’s a nostalgic thing for folks now,” said Rebecca. “To be able to pick just the fruit they want. And my dad continues on the farm. In the fall, he rides around and helps people with their apples. He loves it. He’s got a good, full life.”
In 1967, when finances became tight, Luetta created fruit baskets and pies. Robert found a used cider press, which brought cider and — naturally — a need for donuts. This led to the creation of Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant in 1972.
“Mom and Dad have always been progressive thinkers,” said Rebecca. “They found a way to adapt and make it work. This restaurant is 46 years old, and the farm is 102. It’s something you don’t do intentionally, but it gets done.”
In the late 1980s, Robert and Luetta decided to split the business into three parts. One farm each for their sons Gary and Robert Jr. and the restaurant/cider mill for their daughters Rebecca and Laura.
The restaurant, located in Fennville, has been in business for 46 years.
“When we were kids, it was our father and grandfather’s workshop,” said Rebecca. “It was covered in grease. The only thing that’s still here is the potbelly stove.”
Several of Robert and Luetta’s children and grandchildren continue to work on the farms or in the restaurant. The couple has five children, 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
Holland Sentinel, November 18, 2018
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