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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

2010 EDIES Story 7 of 24: Widening the farm gate to give city folk authentic farm fresh experiences

Agri-tourism is increasing in popularity, but long before the organized movement started, Tama County has had a leader in the industry that recognized that city folk were becoming disconnected from the farm and had an interest to reconnect with where their food comes from.  Using marketing vehicles ranging from billboards on US Highway 30, internet, events, special branding, and regional media, Hinegardner Orchard contributes by bringing dollars from beyond the borders of the county.  Dave Hinegardner explains.  Remind me – what are the EDIES

HOW WE DID IT: Hinegardner Orchard was started in 1960 when Oris and Jean with the help of friends hand planted 600 apple trees.  They had their first public apple pick about 1968.  The orchard was opened to the public at 8am and was picked clean by 9am.  Dad had a terrible headache.  Around 1963 about an acre of strawberries were planted. Over the years the orchard has grown to about 3000 trees.  We have 3 acres of strawberries and about 20 apple varieties, pears, melons, squash, raspberries, melons, and during season rides to pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkins. All of our produce is sold locally to the public here at the orchard and also at local grocery stores and at Grinnell, Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids farmers markets. The orchard has been a family run business since the beginning with Julie and Dave Hinegardner now the owners.

HOW WE GOT THE IDEA: Family genetics.  Willis and Anna Hinegardner (Oris’s mom and dad) had about 10 acres of apple trees and made soghum starting about 1920.  Apple trees froze out in the 1930’s and were never replaced by Willis.  Oris and Jean thought this could be a hobby business that could fill need for homegrown apples that was not being filled.  Also pick your own could be a two weekend business a year.

OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE: Marketing.  People’s needs have changed.  A lot of our customers in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were older people that lived through the depression and canned their food.  It wasn’t uncommon for people to can 15-20 bushels of apples. Today good apples are available in grocery stores 12 months a year and people think differently.  Now we sell more small amounts (under 3 bu.) and it is more of an outing and a novelty to give the children an idea of how these products are grown.  Also we feel that we offer a good product and a very reasonable price.

HOW WE OVERCAME IT: Change with times.  We offer cider days for the cider making experience.  The orchard is open for approx 8 weeks instead of 3 weekends.

ADVICE TO OTHERS: It is much easier to produce a product than sell it. You need to have your markets set up and ready to go before production starts.

WHAT IS NEXT: New varieties of apples (Honey Crisp) more raspberries (2 acres). Marketing more in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. More pre picked.

Photo of Dave Hinegardner by Randy Aiken.

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