The Founders of Minnesota Harvest
Established in 1971
Dr. Kenath H. Sponsel (1919-1979)
It’s all my fault.
Mildred Lollar Sponsel (1919-2004)
That’s right, Bunny.
The Short Version
In 1970 Doc & Mid Sponsel bought this hill — corn and soybeans at the time. They had plans for an apple orchard. What better to keep their six boys out of trouble? (The 2 girls were angels and didn’t need a plan.) But all eight of us were recruited to start planting. Five years later 25,000 trees were in the ground and apples coming in. In those days Dad would stand at the door of the little building coaxing customers to try the yellow (golden) apples. Minnesotans ate only RED apples, and that wasn’t so long ago.
For 35 years the family continued to enhance the orchard experience for our guests. My brother, Topper (18) was at the helm. He loved this place, these trees, and everyone who came to enjoy and share the fruit of everyone’s labor. In 2005, not long after Mother(Mid) Sponsel died, we had to sell the land. But, the new owner extended a generous lease to Topper to continue operating the Orchard. Topper died suddenly 3 months later (age 53) and the lease was taken over by others with more short term interests. Suffice it to say, the Sponsel family, along with local partners, have stepped in to renovate and restore the operation.
Here we are today. We know we cannot reproduce all the features you have come to expect right away. Rejuvenating the trees and buildings has taken all year. Great care and hard work has gone into growing this 2011 crop. Many devoted friends have worked without pay, and out of pocket to be able to open the gates in time for you this year. We hope you come out and enjoy your day.
~ Susan (Sponsel) Kelly
Written by: Scott Chaussee, International Apple Institute
Kevin Breeggemann 1963 – 2015
We can claim both this year. We are so glad to look back on the best year this decade for crop production; for you — our Apple Season U-Pick Army; and for the resources to build a new Cider Pressing Plant. Add Bathroom upgrades, new kitchen equipment (welcome back apple cider donuts), new storage and work space. But, just as we were putting the final parts in place we lost our leader. In case you hadn’t met Kevin Breeggemann, our General Manager, let me introduce you.
…and who worked non-stop, closing up at 11PM every night — and brought us all along for the ride? YUP. (Kevin’s typcal text) He was at his best Thursday, Aug.6th. Bounced through the day. Went home a little early (9pm) His heart stopped. Now we know he was given 52 years to get everything done. We were blessed with his 5 best ones. He once told me, “People ask when I am going to retire. I always tell them I am retired now. Isn’t that when you get to do what you love? So, I am retired.” Well, the world would be a gentler and brighter place if more people “retired” with such vigor and devotion. And could exit, even without fanfare, being loved as much as we loved him.
In gratitude and admiration,
Susan Sponsel Kelly and Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest Family