GTPulse: Father and Son Photograph Leelanau Farmstands for Charity

It’s no secret I’m obsessed with farmstands. I didn’t grow up around them so they’re novel to me. The closest I ever got to a farmstand in metro Detroit was a roadside BBQ stand in Romulus, which I’m not complaining about. BBQ is all fine and good with me, but you won’t find in-season produce or delicious baked treats there. Sometimes you just want a quart of fresh cherries to snack on while watching Home Improvement before bed, or some asparagus to bake into a quiche. As a northern Michigan resident, farmstands are usually on my weekend agenda. Whether for fruit, vegetables, or these certain brownies I can never seem to get off my mind, farm stands are a cultural relic that bring a lot of joy. I’m not the only one that thinks so either. Todd Avis and his son Gabe Avis are driving around Leelanau County photographing all of the farmstands they can find for a calendar and a good cause.

“Leelanau County looks a lot different than other places I’ve been. Particularly this time of year between 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock the sun just seems to illuminate the grass, hay, flowers and the tree leaves much brighter than anywhere else. I don’t know if you can attribute it to cleaner air, less pollution, the influence of the water, but it’s really something.”

Leelanau is where Todd calls home. After spending a chunk of his career living in Grand Rapids, he caved to the beauty within Leelanau County and moved.

He has family all over the country and every year they all get together. The Avis family has been touched by cancer and raising money is a way for them to fight back, as well as do something together as a family.

“Our family has been hit by cancer and our whole family from California to New York meet every summer in Cleveland. There’s about 25 of us and for the past six years we’ve raised about $750,000 for the Cleveland Clinic.”

Photo by Gabriel Avis

Raising the money is cathartic for the Avis’s, but Todd wanted to do more. He thought about the place that he calls home and how he could share that with others for a good cause. He decided on a calendar that showcases all of the farmstands in the county.

“The idea came from the multitude of farmstands here. Everything from a temporary card table to a fabulously designed and marked wagon for produce kind of just struck me.”

He recruited his son Gabriel to help him. Gabriel is the artistically inclined one out of the pair.

“The photography credit goes to my son Gabriel. He’s a graduate of Kenyon College and he’s an art teacher at a boarding school in New York. He’s well rounded in photography, sculpture, painting.”

This is the second year that Todd and Gabriel have made a farmstand calendar. The two of them pack up the car for the day, including Gabriel’s dog Wiggins, and they set out on a scavenger hunt all over the county. Most of the stands photographed are ones that Todd already knows about, but he will post on local community groups to see if he can find any unknown gems.

“I drive, he puts locations into his phone using Google Maps and we kind of sketch out where we’re going to go. Of course, we bump into new ones along the way. We also run into what we call ghost farmstands where we’re told they’re there but we just can’t find them.”

An afternoon helping dad costs Todd lunch, and of course, a few farmstand treats. 

“The cherries this year are unbelievable. By far one of the best years, so any way we bought a quart at a farmstand and while we were having lunch Wiggins got into about 30 of them, which, if you look it up is not good. So we called the vet and he’s fine. So Wiggins likes cherries too.”

Photo by Gabriel Avis

Of course, there are more than 12 stands throughout Leelanau County, however, all of the photos that Todd and Gabriel for the new calendar will make it in one way or the other. It’s too hard to limit the decision to only 12.

For those wanting a calendar, Todd is hoping to have it printed in early September in time for the color tour season and Christmas. 

“I had them in some retail stores in Glen Arbor, but probably the best thing to do is email me and I’ll mail them out to people. I haven’t developed a retail list yet.”

If you’re a lover of farmstands, keeping time, and supporting a good cause, keep Todd’s calendar in mind for 2021.


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Categories: GTPulse