Hoch Orchard and Gardens is a small family farm specializing in organic fruit production. We have about forty-five acres in orchards, nurseries, berry plantings, vineyards, and gardens. Our goal is to produce good quality food with minimal chemical inputs. We use intensive Integrated Pest Management in our orchards. All the fruit and vegetables on our farm are produced in an organic system.
We start the majority of our fruit trees in nurseries on the farm. We have around an acre of nurseries. The root stocks are grafted in the workshop during the winter months and planted in the nurseries in April. We also summer bud-graft stock in July and August. In addition to fruit production, we raise some poultry. This is on a very small scale. We are experimenting with old breeds of chickens that can be raised outdoors and help with pest control. We also have been using geese and ducks to control weeds in the berry beds and nurseries. Poultry production is a low priority and volume varies from 0 to 100s year to year.
We have a diversified marketing plan on our farm. Our apples are cleaned and packed in our own packing facility on the farm. We have our own label and sell fruit directly to health food stores and cooperative grocery stores in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area. We promote our low-input production methods and sell to customers who want locally grown food. We have refrigerated rooms in our packing facility so we can store and sell our apples well into the winter months. A small portion of our crop is also sold at the Farmer’s Markets in La Crosse, Wisconsin between June and October.
We raise two acres of wine grapes. Some of the grape crop is sold to local wine makers and some we make into grape juice and jelly. We have wine making equipment on the farm and make several batches of wine for our own use. Many of our meals will be served with our homemade wines. Interns make their own batches of wine in their free time. We have a family friend who makes wine for us and works with the interns to make their batches of wine from harvest to fermentation and aging. Of course tasting and testing through the process. This year’s interns drink the wine made by last year’s interns.
In 2007, we added a cider pressing facility and commercial kitchen to our business. This facility is attached to our apple packing building. We currently make fresh apple cider, jams, jellies, and sauces. More value-added products may be made in the future. Most interns will be involved in some processing. Interns with an interest in food processing will be given more opportunity work in the kitchen. Summer fruit is cleaned and frozen. Most processing is done in late fall and winter. Cider production begins in August and continues through January.
Harry and Jackie Hoch are the the owners/co-managers of the farm. We have two daughters. Angi is currently works at the RootNote and Coulee Counsel in LaCrosse, she will be going back to school in the Fall of 2014. Missy just finished a tattoo aprenticeship at Twisted Skull in LaCrosse. She is now a licenced Tattoo artist!
Trainees live in houses on the farm. The houses have several bedrooms, bathroom, full kitchens, and washing machines for clothing. The houses are furnished and have bed cloths and linens.
Trainees eat lunch and supper with the host family but are expected to make their own breakfast before the workday begins. Breakfast food is supplied, but the trainee is expected to prepare it on his own. Cooking is done by the hosts and by the trainees. We use a lot of food raised on the farm and try to get other local food when possible. We can adapt to food restrictions, but if you choose not to eat beef and pork, poultry will be on your main meat source. Full vegetarians may have to help with the menu. Vegans may have to work out a different agreement for food.
We do not practice any religion and we do not discriminate for or against any religion. We consider religion a personal practice for your personal time. We do not provide transportation to places of worship or give special treatment or days off for religious events. We welcome interns of all faiths and expect everyone to work together, live together, and be respectful of each others’ beliefs.
If an international trainee gets a Minnesota Drivers License, he will be able to use the farm’s vehicles. Local interns with a good driving record can also use the farm vehicles. An international license will make the process of getting a Minnesota License much quicker. Without an international license, a student will have to take a written exam and then wait several months before taking the driving exam. If a student has a current international license, he can take the driving exam as soon as he passes the written exam. If a trainee gets a Minnesota Drivers license, he will be allowed to use the host’s vehicle to visit friends or to leave the farm for shopping or entertainment. If the trainee does not drive, the host or one of the other interns will be available to drive the trainee on occasion.
Hoch Orchard is located on ridge land along the Mississippi River Valley. Farmland in this region is scattered along deep valleys and woodland. La Crosse Wisconsin is about ten miles from the farm and has a population of 50,000 people. There are about 100,000 people in a 50-mile radius of La Crosse. La Crescent Minnesota is about 8 miles from our farm; it has a population of about 5,000 and is two miles from La Crosse. St.Paul Minnesota is about 150 miles from our farm and is the largest population center in Minnesota. The St.Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area has a population of about 2.5 million people. This is where we sell most of our fruit.
There are many fall festivals in the La Crosse area including Oktoberfest and La Crescent’s Apple Festival. La Crosse also has movie theaters, a community theater for plays, a few museums, and some minor league professional sports teams. The trainees will also have the opportunity to visit the Minneapolis/St.Paul area (Twin Cities). We deliver fruit to the Twin Cities on a weekly basis starting in August and going through December. The Twin Cities have large venues for music; major league sports teams, museums of every kind, and just about any form of entertainment possible in the upper Midwestern U.S.