Wednesday, August 31, 2022

2022 Fruit Harvest Will Be Limited

In any type of agricultural endeavor, there are good years and there are bad years. Usually, it’s driven by the weather. This happens to be a bad year for fruit production at Brovold Community Orchard. Most of our apple trees never bloomed at all this Spring. The pear trees, plum trees, and the few apple trees that did bloom failed to set much fruit. Now, with the hot weather and natural windfall, the crop is looking even worse. The very hot dry summer last year may have stressed the trees and reduced this year’s bloom, and then the cold wet Spring this year appears to have affected fruit set. We were hit by a double whammy.

In light of this, we have decided our priority must be on the school kids who visit the orchard each Fall to learn about picking apples and making apple cider. We have two schools scheduled this year, Alberton on September 30, and DeSmet School from Missoula on October 7. If there are apples left after the kids visit, we will open the orchard to public harvest then. But honestly, we expect the opportunities to be very limited. This makes us sad because our mission is to share our fruit with the community. Last year we gave away over 3,800 pounds of apples, pears, and plums. But you can’t give away what you don’t have.

As an alternative, depending on interest, we may offer a day, probably in October, when people could bring apples from their own trees, and we would help them turn the apples into cider. Sort of a community cider pressing day. If this is something you would be interested in, please let us know.

There’s a saying in baseball that “there’s always next year”. The same holds for orchards. We have a lot of exciting developments going on at Brovold Community Orchard, and we’re looking ahead to next year when the fruit harvest will hopefully be a lot better.




Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Keepin' It Going


It takes a lot to keep a community orchard going. Equipment for mowing, weed eating, and repair parts to keep the equipment operating is always a big need. Fuel to operate the equipment is another big one, especially with toady’s fuel prices. Other needs include tools, products for pest and noxious weed control, fertilizer and other soil supplements, irrigation system repair parts, and supplies for hosting events like cleaning supplies, garbage bags, and a host of other disposables. We could use more tables and folding chairs, and of course there’s always electricity and water bills that come every month.

We’ve been successful in getting grants for some of our bigger infrastructure projects, like a new parking lot and replacing our drip irrigation system. But the day-to-day operation of the orchard is largely dependent on donations from you, the public who uses the orchard. Some people donate cash to the orchard, and that is very much appreciated. It ALWAYS goes to a good use. But we’re thinking some people may prefer to donate physical items instead of cash. So, we’ve decided to put together a “Wish List” of items that would benefit the orchard. These could be new items, but even used items may be helpful if they are in good condition. Yard salers, keep an eye out for these things. They can often be had for pennies on the dollar as you know.


Our Wish List (Links are just for examples. Other sources are acceptable.)

Riding or zero turn lawn mower Link 

Gas powered string trimmers (weed eaters) Link 

Tank/sprayer to tow behind UTV Link 

Large irrigation sprinkler Link 

Folding tables Link 

Folding chairs Link 

Metal T-Posts Link 

Field fencing Link 

Garden hoses, good quality Link  

High nitrogen fertilizer Link 

Grass seed, lawn & pasture Link 

Garbage bags, paper cups, paper plates, plastic spoons, etc

Home Depot or Lowes gift cards

Of course if you would prefer to give money in support of the community orchard, cash donations are easy to make and always welcome. Thank you for supporting the orchard and your community.



Wednesday, March 2, 2022

How to Prune Your Fruit Tree Class

Hello friends and neighbors,

I'll be posting a Spring update soon. In the mean time I wanted to let you know that we'll be holding our second annual fruit tree pruning class in cooperation with Alberton School Adult Education on March 19. This should be a great 4 hour class that covers fruit tree biology, pruning objectives, pruning techniques, and pruning tools. You'll get hands on experience with pruning an apple tree as I guide you through the process. There is a $20 fee for the class, and all participants must register online in advance. Participation is limited to 20 people.

See a bigger version of the flyer here.

Register online here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Thanksgiving Thoughts


Pruning time
Thanksgiving week is a good time to look back and reflect on the year’s accomplishments at Brovold Community Orchard. It’s been a very busy year! The year’s events began in late winter with the annual tree pruning. It’s a big job pruning 76 trees. This year we incorporated a free pruning class for the public. Springtime brought an amazing display of blossoms to the orchard, and local photographer Jay Styles visited to capture the array in all it’s glory. Jay’s photos are simply outstanding. 

Photo by Jay Styles
We held an open house for the public during the peak of the bloom, and everyone who attended got to learn about the history of the Brovold property, how the orchard got its start, and what our future plans entail. The next day, we assisted Alberton School officials in hosting the graduating class for their senior luncheon at the orchard. In July, we participated in Alberton’s Railroad Day. We drove our restored 1941 Chevy pickup in the parade, took first place in the vintage car show, and the orchard was a clue site for the scavenger hunt. 

Railroad Day
In September, Brovold Community Orchard reached a milestone when the IRS approved us as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. This allows us to apply for grants and makes any donations received tax deductible for the donors. On October 1, we co-hosted the annual kids’ cider pressing day for Alberton School children, their teachers, and parents. Over 100 children and adults attended. Other hosts this year included Alberton School District, PEAK Foundation, Alberton PTSA, and Mineral County Parents as Teachers.

Fruit production in the orchard this year was moderately good despite the unusually hot dry summer weather. For the first time, we required free picking permits for the public to harvest fruit from the orchard. The permitting process was very well received and highly successful. A total of 73 permits were issued online or in person. Applicants ranged all the way from Missoula to Superior, but most were from Alberton. Since most people came in family groups, we estimate that about 300 people enjoyed harvesting fruit from the orchard this year. An estimated 3,800 pounds of fruit was harvested, and more than an additional 1,000 pounds of windfallen fruit was picked up for use as livestock feed. The economic benefit provided to the community may have been as great as $7,600.

Following the fruit harvest, a user survey was sent out to permit holders and also made available to the general public. Based on the survey results, satisfaction with this year’s harvest was high, and respondents provided us with some good ideas on how we can make things even better in the future. Some of the top responses were to plant more and a greater variety of fruit trees, develop a better parking area, put up informational signs throughout the orchard, and develop a trail with park benches around the orchard. Those are all things we want to accomplish too, but unfortunately those things all take money. Many people may assume that once the trees are there, it doesn’t cost anything to maintain an orchard. This could not be further from the truth. Expenses for things like maintaining or replacing equipment and buying fuel for mowing, weed whacking, and pruning; pest and noxious weed control; and piecing together a dilapidated irrigation system run around $3,000 annually. Making any improvements beyond basic maintenance costs far more. This is why public donations to help keep the orchard going are so important. Without donations, it would be hard to maintain the current orchard, much less make the improvements we all would like to see.

During this time of Thanksgiving, please consider donating to the orchard if it has blessed you in some small or large way. Alberton has always been known for neighbors helping neighbors. Brovold Community Orchard’s mission is to help our community. Your efforts to give back by making a donation to the orchard would be a blessing to us. Thank you, and please have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.




Friday, August 27, 2021

Late Summer Update

As August draws to a close, it's already starting to feel a little like fall in the orchard. Our thoughts are beginning to turn to the fall fruit harvest. Once again, we will welcome our friends and neighbors from throughout the greater Alberton area to come and pick fruit when it's ready. Watch for notifications on our Facebook page when it's time to pick. For most of the fruit, it will be about another month before it's ripe.
Please note that starting this year we are requiring free picking permits to harvest fruit from the orchard. A free permit will automatically be sent to your email address when you fill out this form. [Edit 11/3/21: This link has been taken down because the 2021 picking season is now over. See you all next year!] We will issue permits in person to anyone without email or Internet access if they simply stop by the house and ask. You may wonder why we're requiring a permit. There are two reasons. Since we can't be at the orchard all the time, we would like to know who is using the orchard and when. This is important to address liability issues and for assessment in case of any damage to the orchard. We would also simply like to know how much fruit the orchard is supplying to the local community. As we begin to apply for grants to improve the orchard, it would be nice to be able to quantify the positive impact the orchard is having on the community.

The exceptionally hot, dry summer we had this year had an impact on fruit production. Although there is still plenty of fruit, the apples and pears are smaller than normal. We are also getting a lot of natural dropping of the fruit. If anyone would like to pick this windfallen fruit up off the ground for use by their pigs or other animals, feel free to come and get as much as you like, no permit required. This is helpful to us by reducing the attraction to bears.

Finally, we would like to thank ECHO, Inc. for donating a new string trimmer (aka weed whacker) to the orchard. The old weed whacker used for decades by Norman Brovold (pictured, age 92) is worn out, and ECHO graciously filled a need. We appreciate their help, and we suggest you consider their products when you're shopping for new outdoor equipment.






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