The History of Union Orchard
University Fruit Farm
in 1917 the University of Nebraska researched and considered many parcels of land before choosing an 80-acre tract near Union to establish a demonstration fruit farm to “show the possibility of developing the suitable lands of southeastern Nebraska for commercial orchard purposes.Â”Â The land became known as The University Fruit Farm.
Initially, forty acres were set aside for the commercial apple orchard.Â In a few years, cherry, peach, pear and plum trees were added Â– as well as additional acres of small fruit (grapes, gooseberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries).Â
The balance of the land was leased and planted into farm crops to help pay expenses.
Over the forty-five years The University Fruit Farm was in operation, buildings and improvements were added that were suitable for their 80-acre farm.Â Through the years the Farm served as a Â“practical demonstration of the possibilities of apple growingÂ…in eastern Nebraska.Â”Â During this time, the University published many reports and studies on fruit planting and production.
Lechner Families Union Orchard
The University Fruit Farm was sold by the University of Nebraska in 1961 Â– becoming a family orchard. It was renamed Union Orchards and most recently was known as Lechner Families Union Orchard.
The Wostrel FamilyÂ’s Union Orchard
In late 2011, Lechner Families Union Orchard was sold to Terry and Carla Wostrel. The Wostrel Family is a Â“Nebraska Pioneer FamilyÂ” having first settled in Cumming County in 1875.
A three-year redevelopment of the property has begun. As most of the existing 6500 fruit trees are over 50 years old, they will need to be replanted. Thirty acres will be replanted in apples, peaches, and pears.
The remainder of the property will be planted in pumpkins, heirloom squash, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and elderberries. A small area of tallgrass prairie (native grasses) will be restored.
The Wostrel Family
5 Generations of Nebraska Farmers
After emigrating from Bohemia in 1867, he settled near West Point and harvested his first crop in 1875. In addition to being a farmer, he was a skilled carpenter, personally building homes for each of his sons.
Born in a dugout in Cumming County in 1880, John later moved
to Pierce County and farmed north of Plainview.
He was especially proud of his team of registered Percheron horses.
He had his own band, Â“John Wostrel and the Farmers Union Boys.Â”
Living from 1904 to 1976 and farming in Pierce County, Stanley saw many changes in agriculture. He experienced the transition from horses to tractors in the 30Â’s, the introduction of hybrid seed in the 40Â’s, chemical fertilizers in the 50Â’s, and got his first center pivot irrigation system in the 60Â’s. He had a 5-acre orchard and kept several beehives.
Being the third son of a farmer, Terry was not groomed to become one. Instead, his father encouraged him to seek a non-farming profession. He graduated from the University of Nebraska and became a practicing dentist in Littleton Colorado. Agriculture was still in his blood though.Â After many years, he purchased farmland in Fremont County Iowa and later the Union Orchard. He has always enjoyed growing fruit.
Being born in the Denver metro area does not prepare one to become a farmer. But, Clint worked many years at a landscaping nursery while in high school and college. He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter MN with a degree in Business Management, but he has always had a strong interest in Horticulture. Clint lives in Nebraska City and will help oversee the re-planting of Union Orchard.