Montgomery Orchard receives MCA value added grant

Wearing protective gloves to protect his hands from recent spraying, Montgomery Orchard owner Scott Wardell (right) shows some of the orchard’s apple trees to Dr. Mary Hanks and Charlie Poster of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Monday.

The Montgomery Orchard is among nearly 50 Minnesota farmers, producers and processors who are receiving a Value Added Grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Montgomery Orchard owner Scott Wardell is using the grant to help fund the purchase of a cider press, pasteurizer and other equipment that will be housed in a new building in the orchard.
“These grants are helping businesses add value to their operation through expansions or upgrades,” said MN Assistant agriculture Commissioner Charlie Poster. “This will lead to an increase in rural economic activities, generate jobs and create new businesses.”
Wardell said the addition to the orchard will add some jobs to the area, as well as enhance visitors’ experiences at the orchard. The “value added” part of the grant comes from the orchard being able to effectively utilize every apple it produces through fruit sales or cider.
On Monday, MN Department of Agriculture representatives Dr. Mary Hanks and Poster toured he orchard. Wardell explained the grant will help the  orchard’s goal of creating an enjoyable family outdoor experience. As part of the tour, he showed them the location of the 60-foot-by-60-foot building that will house the cider press, apple storage and other orchard equipment. Construction on that building is scheduled to begin July 17, with a completion date by the orchard’s opening by Labor Day. 
Wardell said last year’s apple crops were hurt by poor weather conditions. Record heat in March, followed by a series of sub-zero nights in April led to the loss of many apples. That was last year.  
This year, Wardell said, Mother Nature and the apple trees are making up for it. Farmers are basking in far better weather, and are sunnily optimistic about this summer’s apple crop. He said because they didn’t produce as many apples last year, the energized trees could produce a bumper apple crop.
“It is a good year this year,” he said. “The trees are full and the crop is coming along fairly well.”
While Mother Nature has been kind to apple trees, the declining bee population has made pollination a challenge. Wardell said during an ordinary season, apple orchards have 10 to 12 days to pollinate their apple blossoms. This year, they got seven days, and of those seven days, five and a half were rainy ones. That means the bees that were brought in only had one and half days to do their job.
But they did it, as evidenced from the hundreds of apple trees loaded with growing, sweet apples.