Many West Harrison High School students assisted with the planting of fruit trees Friday, April 20, at the new River Sioux Orchard, which is located near Little Sioux.
A number of students in the agricultural science classes (horticulture and wildlife management) taught by Todd Goodwater, agricultural education instructor for the West Harrison Community School District based in Mondamin, participated and more than 270 bare-root apple, apricot, cherry, peach, pear and plum trees were planted that afternoon. Moist soil and wonderful weather made for nearly perfect planting conditions.
Tom Trapp, owner of the River Sioux Orchard, said he is appreciative of the help his business received from the students with the planting, which occurred a week before National Arbor Day was observed Friday, April 27.
“This is a great way for the students to get hands-on experience working with fruit-producing trees,” he said. “Beginning with planting and ongoing maintenance, the orchard will provide an outdoor classroom for the students.
“While the trees will take eight years to bring to production, Mr. Goodwater sees the opportunity for students to see another dimension of agriculture and agriculture education for current and future West Harrison students.”
Trapp said Goodwater and West Harrison Superintendent Joel Foster have been very supportive of the learning opportunities the orchard provides the students.
“The students were tremendous and have such a desire to learn,” he said. “I only wish I had their energy!”
Goodwater said the River Sioux Orchard gives the students of the Harrison County FFA (Future Farmers of America) and the West Harrison Agriculture Education Program opportunities to get a hands-on experience in the horticulture industry.
“My students are well versed in the traditional production agriculture (cows, plows and sows); however, the West Harrison Agriculture Education Program is recognizing the needs of all Harrison County students to explore all areas of agriculture,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have the support of Mr. Trapp, and with his guidance, we will be able to make use of the River Sioux Orchard as a learning lab to practice new skills developed in the classroom.
“As the only FFA chapter in Harrison County, the West Harrison School District appreciates the support of all communities in Harrison County (as well as Moorhead in Monona County). The Harrison County FFA has members in Woodbine, Moorhead, Pisgah, Mondamin, Modale and Missouri Valley.”
In addition to Goodwater and Trapp, orchard planters included the following Harrison County students: Dakota Bowman, Johanna Brieskorn, Loren Coberly, Cory Caddell, Merissa Cox, Kay Lou Dilley, Michaela Foster, Mariah Greco, Bryant Hatcher, Adriel King, Trey Kirlin, Darby Kuhlman, Trey LaGois, Siarah Langley, Wyatt McColley, Cade Meeker, Jake Moore, Loyal Myler, Landon Nelson, Bre Nuzum, Conner O’Neill, Dustin Peasley, Cassidy Pape, Alexis Pettid, Steavie Pettid, Landon Pruett, Marty Pruett, Ethan Rife, Kelsey Rollins, Michael Stevens, Tyler Tedford and Alyssa Thomas.
Other orchard planters – Trapp’s family members and friends – included Jim Carson, Shelli Leick, Bernie Trapp, Matthew Trapp, Rosalie Trapp and Ginny Wallar.
Tom Trapp said community orchards are springing up throughout the country with the increased focus today on good nutrition, healthy lifestyles, outdoor activity, local supply and sustainable agriculture.
“Harrison County has among the most numerous and blessed orchards throughout the state,” he said. “The conditions and the Loess Hills are nearly ideal for growing. These trees will be enjoyed by citizens of Harrison County for generations.”
Trapp said Iowa, prior to 1940, was among the leading apple-producing states in the U.S., but the “Armistice Day Freeze” freeze Nov. 11 of that year caused many farmers to convert their orchards to soybeans and corn – and so went the apple production in the state. Armistice Day is now Veterans Day.
“Community orchards are a great way of bringing the awareness of apples as a viable agricultural crop to the community,” he said. “Iowa is making a real comeback in fruit-tree orchards.”
Trapp said most people throughout the region know his business as the River Sioux Orchard, but Trapple Orchard, which started up last year, will be its brand name.
“We have a statewide effort in Iowa and Nebraska to share our experiences with (agricultural) educators in the state to help promote local sponsorship of local community orchards’ efforts for sustainable agriculture and durable farm crops,” he said.
Trapp said the River Sioux Orchard has not begun to sell commercially yet, but would definitely encourage people to think of Harrison County orchards for the upcoming fall.
“There are several throughout the county and we’re not competing for business,” he said. “I suspect we will begin in September 2013.”
The River Sioux Orchard someday will feature a variety of apples, apricots, sweet cherries, tart (pie) cherries, peaches, pears and plums, as well as berries – blackberries, gooseberries and raspberries. It is located near exit 95 on Interstate 29 at 1377 145th St. just south of River Sioux on Harrison County Road K-45 (Austin Avenue).
Trapp, who lives in Omaha, Neb., may be reached by phone at 402-502-4136. The River Sioux Orchard’s Web site, www.trappleorchard.com, is scheduled to go online by the middle of June.