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When Improving Healthy Food Access Becomes a ‘Hobby’

July 11, 2012

A few days ago, Bill Hughes, Jared Walhowe, and I found ourselves standing between seemingly endless rows of fruit-bearing apple trees at Rush City Orchard in Chisago County.  Looking at the healthy, adolescent fruits, we couldn’t help but anxiously anticipate the kick-off of yet another successful season of Fruits of the City.

By commercial fruit-tree plantation standards, Rush City Orchard, a 10 acre plot with approximately 500 apple trees, is considered to be rather small.  Despite its relatively diminutive size, the orchard’s well-pruned limbs, ecological pest-prevention devices, and dispersed wildlife food plots make it an impressive sight.  Much of Rush City Orchard’s splendor can be credited to Roger Miller, the delightfully joyous man who founded and currently manages the plantation.    

For the last three years, Miller has graciously registered his orchard for participation in Fruits of the City.  He told us that volunteer gleaners usually pick around 8,000 pounds of apples annually.  Astonished by this statistic, I asked Roger, “Why did you originally plant this orchard?  Did you know that were going to be providing so many underprivileged people with fresh produce?”

He bashfully replied, “No, actually it began as a hobby.  And when I found out that I could donate the apples to those in need, it continued to be just that…a hobby.”

Thanks to the incredibly admirable generosity of orchard owners like Roger Miller, Fruits of the City will most certainly have an abundant harvest this upcoming fall!

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