Feeding the hungry, one apple at a time

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Minnetonka hobby farmer Bob Werner has grown grapes, apples and other produce for more than 30 years, experimenting with developing disease-resistent and cold-hardy varieties. He has donated the fruits of his labor to local food shelves, a total of 93,000 pounds since 1993. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Gabby Landsverk)

Minnetonka hobby farmer Bob Werner has grown grapes, apples and other produce for more than 30 years, experimenting with developing disease-resistent and cold-hardy varieties. He has donated the fruits of his labor to local food shelves, a total of 93,000 pounds since 1993. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Gabby Landsverk)

Few things are more emblematic of Minnesota’s warmer months than fruit, fresh from the tree or vine. Bob Werner, an aspiring botanist and Minnetonka resident, has made it his mission to grow the best grapes, apples and other fruit the harsh Minnesota climate will allow. Along the way, he’s donated thousands of pounds of fresh produce through the ICA Foodshelf to people who otherwise might go hungry.

In total, Werner has donated 93,025 pounds of fresh, home-grown produce to local food shelves since 1993.
“As the crop improves, you’ve got to do something with it. You can’t eat it all yourself,” he said.
Werner said he first offered the fruits of his labor to friends and family. When there was too much even to share, he decided to start donating the fruit.

He said he was never interested in selling or marketing his produce, preferring instead to focus on his plants.
His small backyard on Lake Street Extension is a wonderland for gardeners and foodies alike, with more than a dozen kinds of fruit on the vine. Werner’s crop includes apricots, hazelnuts, black walnuts, many kinds of apples, pears, plums and several kinds of berries as well as a diverse array of grapes. Even more of the botanical bounty can be found at his hobby farm, a short drive away from his home, with several acres of orchards.

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