Hoch Orchard and Gardens is owned and run by Harry and Jackie Hoch. Located near La Crescent, Minn., Hoch has a long tradition of growing fresh fruit. A handful of the farm’s original trees, planted in the 1940s, are still on the farm, though production is concentrated on newer varieties. Besides 50 varieties of apples, Hoch Orchard also grows grapes, plums, apricots (cold-tolerant varieties they have developed right on the farm), cherries and berries. It is a testament to Harry and Jackie’s farming ability that they are able to grow such high-quality fruit organically, as apples are very vulnerable to pests and disease. Hoch Orchard and Gardens was the featured Know Our Grower July 31 - August 20. Meet the Grower: Sunday, Aug. 4.
Grower: Jackie Hoch
When did you begin farming and what inspired you to pursue farming as a profession?
Harry has been involved with fruit farming most of his life; I began farming 26 years ago when Harry and I met. Producing good food for our family and sharing the bounty with others are motivating reasons we farm. Developing a sound system that respects the environment and brings diversity to the farm is one of the many reasons we continue to farm.
Can you describe your approach to farming?
We are trying to become a closed loop system and the integration of animals to the farm is essential to meet that goal. Nowhere in nature is there a system that doesn't include animals. The pigs and chickens are strategically rotated to help us with disease and pest control. The pigs eating the apples in the fall after harvest removes the potential insects that could have been in the fallen fruit. The pigs also help us be eating the pumice (apple waste like skins and seeds) we produce when making cider.
What distinguishes your products from other local growers?
The fruit and products we have are both local and certified organic. The sauce, juices and jellies are made from the fruit we produce. Our fruit is harvested and delivered directly to the store so the time from harvest to the consumer is not very long. Sometimes we have apples that are picked and packed one day and to the store the next day. It can't get much fresher than that.
What is your favorite way to enjoy your own produce?
For fruit, the best way to enjoy it is fresh picked! The peak flavor and textures make the fruit fantastic!