The expertise required to grow 50-plus varieties of organic apples is in full bloom at Hoch Orchard & Gardens in La Crescent
Editor's note: This article is part of Home grown, a feature appearing in the July 2013 issue.
At Hoch Orchard & Gardens in La Crescent, horticulturist Harry Hoch caters to consumers with sophisticated palates who appreciate the expertise and persistence required to grow more than 50 varieties of organic apples, as well as plums, wine grapes, berries, apricots, and cherries.
Hoch has used his training and experience as a University of Minnesota horticulture researcher to develop a thriving fruit-growing operation on prime land his family has owned since the 1950s.
Hoch received an associate's degree in Horticulture in 1985, managed Hoch Orchard through 1989, and worked as a research plot coordinator at the university's Horticultural Research Center while earning a master's degree.
Hoch, along with his wife Jackie and their children, moved back to their orchard in the summer of 1997 and started replanting. Hoch Orchard now has around 10,000 apple trees planted on 25 acres, along with about 10 acres of plums, apricots, cherries, grapes, and berries. It also rents an additional five acres of apple trees.
The company sells about $250,000 per year (gross revenue) worth of fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce accounts for about two-thirds of that total, and value-added products such as jellies and applesauce provide the rest. Hoch also runs a fruit-processing company called Minnesota's Finest Fruit Products.
"The demand for locally grown foods seems to be expanding," Hoch says. "I'm not sure if the demand for organic fruits and vegetables is expanding as fast as it once was."
Hoch Orchard & Gardens
Headquarters: La Crescent
Leadership: Harry and Jacqueline Hoch, owners
Employees: 1 full-time, 10 part-time or seasonal
Description: Grows and markets organic fruits and vegetables