Leaman's Green Applebarn is a 6 generation apple orchard that has been around since 1889. We are conveniently located in Freeland, between Midland and Saginaw. Leaman's Green Applebarn is a place where you can have a fun and relaxing farm experience. Visit us in the small town of Freeland where you can enjoy our Country store and gift shop, have a bite from our bakery, or take a walk around our gardens. Enjoy a cool, refreshing cider slush. Visit us in the fall for our play area, hayrides,apples, cider, pumpkins, mazes, and much more. Please come in and tell us you are a first time visitor. We will be more than happy to show you around.
On a farm in Freeland grows a 100-year-old apple tree. While it may not be the best producing tree among its younger, more robust orchard companions, its roots run straight to the core of the Leaman family business. “Someone in my family has been selling fruit on the corner of Wilkinson and River since the 1890s,” says Jaye Reisinger, co-owner of Leaman’s Green Applebarn and Cider Mill.
Reisinger simply never thought it would be her. She felt she was destined for other things, and left Michigan to pursue her education and career with the church. It wasn't until years later, when her own children were born, did she feel the farm - and with her family - was where she wanted and needed to be.
The successful operation of a family business by several generations - seven in the Leaman's case - is difficult as the statistics are startling. According to the Family Firm Institute, more than two-thirds of family-owned businesses do not survive into the second generation. Roughly 12 percent remain viable into the third generation, while just 3 percent operate into the fourth generation and beyond.
For Jaye Reisinger, returning home to the family farm meant returning to the family business, too. Leaman's Green Applebarn and Cider Mill is a centennial farm catering to families with small children. It houses a country store and gift shop, bakery, garden walk, play area, picnic area, and corn maze. During the late summer and fall months visitors can also enjoy old-fashioned cider, apples, blackberries, pumpkins, and fall produce in a home-style environment. Through the winter and early spring the sign out front reads, "open by chance or by appointment."
It is this personal experience, a feeling of being a part of the family as soon as you walk in the door, that Reisinger, along with her brother, John Leaman, finds most important to keep up. "My mother consistently reminded me that people could always go to Meijer's to get their fruit," says Reisinger. Leaman and Reisinger are the fifth generation to work on the farm. Two other siblings, Jill and Jim, currently do not work in the business.
Reisinger handles most of the storefront daily operations while Leaman does most of the bookkeeping and business affairs, as well as working many weekends and much of the summer. Both siblings enjoy other careers. Leaman, who holds a master's degree in education, is a teacher at St. John's Catholic School in Essexville. Reisinger is also the pastor at Freeland United Methodist Church.
A visit to Leaman's is just as likely to be educational as it is entertaining. Reisinger and Leaman hope increasing the educational aspect of the farm will be the greatest influence they impart on the business. In 2006, more than 6,000 school kids passed through the farm on school tours. "When people come out we want them to leave knowing something new about farms, bees, or something else," says Reisinger. It's a lesson she learned from her father and grandfather who loved to entertain people and share their knowledge and passion for farming.
Reisinger credits her parents, Jack and Jacquie Leaman, with growing the business from a fruit stand to the family attraction it is today. Even though Jack's parents encouraged him to pursue a career outside of farming - he spent 30 years with Consumers Power (now Consumers Energy) - he retired early and focused on growing the farm. They built the business storefront, added a bakery, began advertising, and attended local farmers markets.
And even though Reisinger and Leaman assumed most of the business responsibilities about four years ago, most days you can still find Jack at the farm puttering around. He is rumored to be one of the best donut and pie makers on the premises.
Working on the farm begins at an early age for every generation. For Reisinger, it meant picking berries by the bucketful from her grandparents' raspberry and strawberry fields - enough buckets to pay for most of her college courses. For Reisinger's youngest daughter, Sara, it meant working the cash register since she could add. Plus the goats and sheep Sara raises for 4-H often make their way into the petting zoo. Leaman's boys, Curtis and Dequan, help with the trimming and planting. Even grandson, Ethan, can be found pictured in ads for the fun activities offered.
Reisinger's other children are choosing to pursue different careers, although they've all spent time in the business at one point or pursue their dreams of movie make-up and photography, respectively. Eldest son, Chris, earned a degree in horticulture and helped run the farm for a year before moving to Illinois to take a job with Farm Credit Services. He is pursing his master's degree in agricultural marketing and is constantly sending back new ideas and plans for the farm.
Reisinger says all three of them have what it takes to run the farm, if they ever desired to in the future. It's a choice only the next generation will be able to decide.