The Empire Asparagus Festival’s “Ode to Asparagus Poetry Competition” on June 1 attracted 25 entries and 100 attendees at the Glen Lake Community Library. The winning poem, as selected by the audience, was “Astrological Asparagus” by Joseph Povolo. Meanwhile, one Empire family swept the Asparagus Recipe Contest held at the Town Hall. Don Cunningham won the People’s Choice Grand Prize for his “Asparagus Benedict” recipe. Carol Cunningham finished second for her “Spargelsalat” (German asparagus salad). Carol’s brother Duane Schmidt won third place for his “Asparagus Peppers” recipe.

June = Bardenhagen strawberry season. Yes, it is its own season in the Leelanau Peninsula. Every year around the peninsula, usually from mid-June to the beginning of July, fans wait impatiently for the harvest of the Bardenhagen strawberries. Once the word is out that the strawberries are ready, making the trip to the Bardenhagen farm stand at 7990 E Horn Road is a must. The harvest of these gorgeous berries launch the summer season and are a reason to celebrate.

Food, folks, farm and fun—plus a festival or two. Those are all part of the plan at the Lively Farm, a.k.a. Backyard Burdickville, f.k.a. the Eagles property on M-72 just east of Empire. Lively NeighborFood Market is set to debut Memorial Day weekend, pending any surprises with the buildout or weather. The brainchild of Jim and Kelly Lively is the latest addition to the property, which has also served as home to the LivelyLands music festival and the Lively Farm, a CSA farm.

“Growing food in summer and fall is easy,” says Loma Farm owner Nic Theisen. “Growing during winter is a more interesting story.” Spoiler alert: he’s right. Winter is cold and snowy. There’s significantly less light. It costs lots of money to provide electricity if you want heat spaces to promote growing. It’s a huge challenge to try to grow under those conditions. Why even bother? There are a few reasons. One is because Theisen wants to promote better, longer-lasting use of the land. Another is to keep his workers employed year-round. And there are those that depend on the products from the farm, especially Farm Club, the nearby restaurant that Theisen and his wife Sara own along with Gary and Allison Jonas.

The Mill in Glen Arbor will launch its long anticipated restaurant this fall in the historic Braemmer flour mill on the Crystal River. The Mill announced its Supper Club on Instagram today with 12 dates between mid-October and mid-December. According to Kelsey Duda, owner of Fernhaus Studios, which manages The Mill, supper club tickets will start at $75 per person.

Twenty-plus years ago, Diane Conners saw an opportunity to trade her work in journalism for a more diverse career. She began working with farmers, conservationists, policy makers and others committed to protecting the land, the environment and a way of life she’d come to treasure in Leelanau County. Turned out, it was turning to the land. She shifted gears and began working for the Michigan Land Use Institute—now the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Conners authored the book “Shared Abundance: Lessons in Building Community Around Locally Grown Food” just prior to her retirement. Groundwork Center dubs it “Part gorgeous, story-filled coffee-table book and part local food economy strategy manual.”

Chef Abra Berens

Chef Abra Berens has worked in Chicago, Ann Arbor, even Ireland. But she hasn’t forgotten her time in Leelanau County. That’s reflected in her continuing visits and efforts here. It’s also part and parcel of her cookbooks, including her latest, “Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit,” which published last month. Like its predecessors, the book concentrates on one of the food groups. In this case, that’s fruit, complementing vegetables and grains. Berens will preside over a series of 50th anniversary dinners at Mawby Vineyards July 23, Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. She will also hold a book signing at Horizon Books on July 22.

There is nothing shy about a northern Michigan spring—grouse and turkeys heady with lust walk the roads bemused by approaching vehicles, the stuttering calls of sand hill cranes returning to fields that green while you’re watching, and a hillside that just yesterday was filled with decaying leaves is now covered with the verdant stems of ramps, writes Julie Zapoli, whose story about farm produce in Leelanau County features Bardenhagen Farms, Lively Farms, 9 Bean Rows, and MI Farm Co-op.

When Eric Nittolo, owner of Nittolo’s Seafood & Pizza in Lake Leelanau, travels to Europe, he brings a family entourage and they eat like royalty, night after night. With each plate, in each city, Eric challenges himself to learn something new, to bring culinary lessons home to Lake Leelanau. Every night on his trips to Italy, Spain and the Baltic countries, Eric took mental notes on how he could incorporate these culinary lessons back home. Now at Nittolo’s you can order a Tuscan wild boar pizza served with smoked mozzarella. And on May 17, a Spanish Tapas lounge will open at Nittolo’s.

Peninsula Provisions, located in the old Samaritan’s Closet Building in Lake Leelanau, is thrilled to announce their projected opening in June 2023. Owner and proprietor Kate Vilter Stassen, formerly of The Riverside Inn in Leland, and husband Coenraad Stassen, Brys Estate director of Winemaking and Estate manager have always been passionate about wine and food. It was Kate, however, who knew even before the sale of the Riverside in 2021 that owning and operating a wine and provisions shop was the next step in her career.