Anoka County natives defy naysayers to open apple orchard

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 24, 2013 - 2:09 PM

Donna Remick’s immigrant grandparents found their American dream in the soils of Anoka County. She is now pursuing hers.

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The Remick family defied the naysayers and Mother Nature when they planted apple trees in the sandy soils of Anoka County. Chuck and Donna Remick said their Honeycrisp apple trees have been extremely productive.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Buy a bag of sweet apples from Remick’s Orchard and you’ll also walk away with some sweet nostalgia.

Donna Remick’s grandparents immigrated from the Ukraine and purchased their American dream on June 15, 1935 — farmland in rural Oak Grove township.

Donna Remick, born on the same date about two decades later, spent her childhood exploring in the woodlands and fields on her grandparents’ family farm. She inherited the land and leased it to a farmer for 20 years.

In 2010, Donna decided to pursue her own dream. She and her husband, Chuck Remick, defied Mother Nature and naysayers, who said apple trees wouldn’t thrive in Anoka County’s sandy soil.

The pair of retirees planted 1,200 apple and fruit trees themselves. This fall, they’re harvesting their first crop.

They’re telling their story and selling their apples, tomatoes, honey, grapes and other produce from a simple roadside stand on their farm, at 18978 Lake George Blvd. NW. Their motto: From our heart to the core.

“Someone told us you can’t plant apples on this side of the river. It’s all sand. We proved them wrong,” said Chuck Remick. “I am pretty proud of what we did this year.”

“We had a few things going against us, like our age, but I think it’s keeping us healthy,” said Donna Remick, 60. “Apples are so good for you.”

This year, the couple, with the help of their three grandchildren, are harvesting the fruit themselves. The young tree limbs are still delicate, but Donna Remick has big dreams. In coming years, she hopes to create the full you-pick experience for families complete with hayrides and other attractions.

“When I get in there with my hands in the dirt, I am so proud,” Donna Remick explains.

Chuck Remick, 63, looks at his wife with pride as she helps customers, offering them facts and sample slices of Minnesota’s latest designer apples.

“This is the SweeTango. We call this the love child of the Zestar! and the Honeycrisp,” Donna Remick tells a customer who wanders, leaving with a bag of apples.

Finding her passion

The Remicks, married for 39 years, grew up in Anoka County. Charles Remick worked as a welder, and then he and Donna owned a company that sold loading dock equipment. Donna Remick was a hairdresser but when she took a job at a nursery in Akin, Minn., she discovered her true passion was rooted in farming and gardening.

She learned about growing fruits and vegetables. The couple began studying about starting an apple orchard.

“There were a lot of pessimistic people who thought we shouldn’t do it, that we couldn’t do it. It created quite the challenge,” Donna Remick said. “We were going to create this orchard and somehow we are going to make it work.”

With a backhoe and shovels, the couple planted trees. Then they spent the next four years tending, pruning and waiting. They’ve planted 16 varieties, including Zestar!, Red Barron and SweeTango, but a majority of their trees are the much coveted Honeycrisp. Some of their grapes will be made into wine at the White Rabbit Vineyards & Winery in Andover.

“It was a whole lot more work that we thought,” Donna Remick admits.

But the couple say they’ve grown along with their apples.

“I was always a shy person, but I’ve learned to let myself go,” Donna Remick said. “We just want people to experience what we experience when we are out here.”

 

Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804

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