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Ruby Ellen Farm (Rex Dobson Farm)

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Rex Dobson Farm
1865. 5946 S. Center Hwy.
  • (Photograph by Kathryn Bishop Eckert)

The Ruby Ellen Farm is an approximately 150 acre tract of land that runs east–west. Since the farm was homesteaded by William and Margaret (McFarland) Core in the late 1860s, it has remained in the Core family, except for a brief period in the mid-1920s when it was in the possession of the Federal Land Bank. Until 2011 the farm was owned and operated by Rex Eugene Dobson, great-grandson of the farm's original settlers. The farm is named for Dobson's mother, Ruby Ellen (Core) Dobson.

The cultural landscape of the farm encompasses the structures of the eleven-acre farmstead; ninety acres of hay, corn, and rye fields, cherry orchards, pine plantation, and windbreaks; the forty-seven-acre northern hardwood forest woodlot; and approximately one acre of buildings along the shore of South Lake Leelanau. Separated from working farmland by white pine and Norway spruce windbreaks planted by Dobson and his father in 1946, the farmstead contains the two-story, gabled-ell farmhouse (c. 1878); the gable-roofed post-and-beam bank barn (c. 1870); and outbuildings. Included in this land are two black walnut trees planted by the farm's original settlers. Most of the farm's original orchards were apple trees. Cherry production began in 1948, and today the orchard has fifteen acres of sweet and tart cherries. The woodlot, comprising beech, maple, ash, hemlock, and oak, typifies northern hardwood woods associated with the glacial topography of northwest Lower Michigan.

In 1999, Rex Dobson worked with the Leelanau Conservancy to become the first farmer in Leelanau County to participate in the state's Purchase of Development Rights program. Included in the ninety acres that he has protected by a farmland development rights easement is most of the farm's original 80-acre parcel. To complement this land protection measure, in 2001 Dobson established a nonprofit corporation to safeguard the farm's cultural resources and manage the farm as an educational resource. Nearby, in 2006, the Leelanau Conservancy and Elmwood Township joined in preserving the 145-acre 1880s Louis and Esther DeYoung Farm (DeYoung Natural Area) intersected by the Leelanau Trail of the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails at 9606 E. Cherry Bend Road, with adaptive reuse planned for the buildings and a natural area for the surrounding land.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Ruby Ellen Farm (Rex Dobson Farm)", [Suttons Bay, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 438-439.

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