Red potato, blue potato . . .

Posted on August 5, 2009


I like doing stories for the local papers.  They generally involve daytrips where I meet interesting people and see wonderful things.  Here, for example, you have a bucket full of lovely spuds.

Bucket o' spuds

Those red, white fingerling and blue potatoes grew on Caroline LaVanway’s farm on Coeling Road north of Ellsworth.  Her son Phillip and grandson, young Phillip, dug them while I was there.  Then another son, Brad, scrubbed them to a gleam, while all of them told me how good they tasted, and how each kind had its own distinct flavor.

Helping Uncle Phil
Caroline took me on a tour.  I admired the rolling terrain, the cutting gardens, the lush rows of sugar peas and peppers, the plastic bags flapping in the breeze—ammunition in the ongoing war with the deer over whose produce this is. 

LF - Shoodeer

Most of all—you know me—I admired the food.  The LaVanways grow specialty produce: heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, herbs, squash, onions, shallots, eggplant, fingerling potatoes and a dozen varieties of peppers.  They turn out pies and cookies and jam in their commercial kitchen.  Caroline worked at Tapawingo (one of Michigan’s finest restaurants) for ten years and both of her sons had jobs there when they were still in their teens.  This is a family of good cooks with good palates.

They like experimenting.  Caroline trades heirloom tomato seeds with other growers and received starts of sweet yellow raspberries from Max Guntzviller.  “Here, try one,” she said.  “They’re really good.”  She was right.

Yellow raspberries from Guntzviller starts 
It was all I could do to keep up with the LaVanways and my only job was trotting around after them taking pictures and listening while they did all the work.  They work hard and they do it joyfully. They are so not American Gothic.

American Not-GothicA fistful of fingerlings

The sunny attitude lights up everything they do.  They worked on the Breezeway project, developing the winding route between Atwood and Boyne City into a tourism and farm market destination.  Caroline helped organize the Ellsworth farmers market and is the market master.  Phillip collects fossils and makes Petoskey stone jewelry during the winter.  Brad has a gift for turning the day’s picking into an irresistible display.

Market table closeup
After all the show-and-tell and the picking and the scrubbing and the display styling, the LaVanways were ready for their portrait.

LaVanway Farms - Family portrait at the market table 
Visit LaVanway Farms at 10650 Coeling Road (it begins as White Road in town) north of Ellsworth.