The Isanti County News The Isanti County News covers community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for the cities of Cambridge, Isanti, and Braham, Minnesota and their surrounding areas. Wed, 01 Oct 2014 21:38:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dorothy Anna Steckelberg Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:20:41 +0000 Dorothy Steckelberg of Sauk Rapids, formerly of Day, died on Sept. 30, 2014. She was 80 years old.
Survived by sons Mike (Phyllis), Bob (Elizabeth), Jeff (Frances) and Larry (Kay); 11 grandchildren.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, Oct. 3 at St. Augustines Catholic Church in St. Cloud. Interment will be at St. Marys Cemetery in Mora. Akkerman-Ingebrand Funeral Home of Mora,

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Doris (Pearl) Olson Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:20:33 +0000 Doris (Pearl) Olson, age 93, of Braham, passed away Sept. 27, 2014. Arrangements by Rock Ingebrand Funeral Home , (320)396-2121.

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CPS Principal Grote put on paid administrative leave Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:23:44 +0000 Cambridge Primary School Principal Chris Grote has been put on paid administrative leave effective Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 30. Grote was formally charged Tuesday in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge with with two counts of gross misdemeanor stalking and misdemeanors of disorderly conduct and fleeing a peace officer by means other than a motor vehicle.

Below is a copy of the letter Superintendent Dr. Ray Queener sent home to the CPS families:

Dear CPS Families,

Effective Tuesday afternoon, Principal Chris Grote was put on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the district’s investigation. In the letter provided to Mr. Grote, he was instructed to have no contact with staff, students, or parents before, during, or after school while the investigation is being conducted. We appreciate your help to preserve the integrity of this process.

For now, in Mr. Grote’s absence, Cambridge Intermediate School Principal, Mr. Scott Peterson, will oversee both Cambridge Primary and Cambridge Intermediate Schools with support from Director of Teaching and Learning, Mr. Tim Truebenbach, and myself. Should the administrative support for CPS change, you will be provided updates as appropriate.

We are mindful that the arrest of Mr. Grote may be confusing and challenging for our students.

Our goal is to keep the focus on the teaching and learning of our students. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to provide support for our students while they are at school. Our teachers have done an excellent job of minimizing distractions and directing students to the teaching and learning happening in the classroom.

As parents, you may be wondering how you can best support your children when they are outside of the classroom.  There are many supportive actions you can take to help your children cope with this situation. Students are likely to have many questions, and while there is information the district is unable to discuss, we hope the following suggested talking points will help you while discussing the situation with your children.

  1. Cambridge Primary School is a safe place for your children to learn. Let your children know the alleged incident did not occur at their school and did not involve any CPS students. Their teachers and CPS staff are always looking out for their well-being while they are at school.
  2. If your children ask why Principal Grote was arrested, an age-appropriate explanation for CPS students is that good choices lead to good results and that sometimes people make poor decisions that have negative consequences.
  3. If your children ask if Mr. Grote is returning or what may happen, you can explain that Mr. Grote is unable to be at school, but that Mr. Peterson and others will be there to help out.
  4. School is our students’ opportunity to learn. Despite the absence of Principal Grote, your childrens’ teachers will continue to provide teaching and learning in the classroom. Encourage your children and let them know while they are at school they should do their best to learn.
  5.  Our staff at CPS is there to support your children and we have counselors available for students should they need support while they are at school. Let your children know this resource is available to them. If they have any concerns they can always let their teacher or another CPS staff member know—they are there to help them.
  6. Do your best to answer their questions and don’t share any information if you are unsure if it is factual. You’re encouraged to contact me directly at 763-689-6201 or with any questions or concerns you may have.

We will continue to do our best to help our students, parents, and school staff navigate this difficult situation before us. Your support of our students and our schools is always appreciated. As we work through this situation please be assured our students will remain our priority. As appropriate, we will be sure to inform you of what we are able to share.

We are very proud of our students and staff at CPS and the District 911 community.


Dr. Ray Queener
District 911 Superintendent


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Cambridge man in critical condition following Sunday evening accident Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:23:37 +0000 A 23-year-old Cambridge man remains in critical condition following a Sunday evening accident that ejected him for his vehicle.

The accident was reported at 9:48 p.m. Sept. 28 at Walbo Drive Northwest and Dahlia Court Northwest, Springvale Township.

According to Isanti County Chief Deputy Chris Caulk, the 23-year-old driver and his 25-year-old passenger, were heading westbound on County Road 1 at a high rate of speed when they hit a northern ditch on County Road 1, and struck an embankment. The 2008 Toyota rolled and landed on its roof.

The driver was ejected from the vehicle. He was flown to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, and as Tuesday afternoon, he remained in critical condition, according to Caulk.

Caulk said toxicology reports on the driver are still pending, but the investigation reveals alcohol may be a contributing factor the accident. He said it’s undetermined if the driver was wearing a seat belt.

The passenger in the vehicle was treated and released from Cambridge Medical Center.

Responding to the scene were the Isanti County Sheriff’s Department, Isanti County Safety and Rescue, Cambridge Police, North Memorial Air, Cambridge Fire and ambulance services.

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CPS principal formally charged Tuesday with stalking Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:22:47 +0000 Christopher Allen Grote

Christopher Allen Grote

Cambridge Primary School Principal Christopher Allen Grote, 47, of East Bethel, has been charged with stalking and other offenses stemming from an incident over the weekend.

Grote made his first appearance in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge Sept. 30 where he was formally charged before Judge Amy Brosnahan with two counts of gross misdemeanor stalking and misdemeanors of disorderly conduct and fleeing a peace officer by means other than a motor vehicle.

Grote has been principal of CPS for eight years and started with the district 22 years ago as a student teacher. He has taught grades two through four for Cambridge-Isanti Schools and has coached multiple sports for all levels at Cambridge-Isanti and Braham schools.

Bail was ordered at $6,000, and Grote was ordered to have no direct or indirect contact with the victim, her residence or her place of employment. He was also ordered to remain law-abiding, not use or possess alcohol or drugs, not enter any bars or liquor stores, not use or possess any firearms or dangerous weapons, and not leave the state of Minnesota without approval. Brosnahan also ordered Grote to submit to an initial baseline urine analysis prior to his release from jail and be subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

During the hearing, Grote appeared without a lawyer, but indicated to Brosnahan he will be hiring private counsel. Grote’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 30.

Paul Young, from the Anoka County Attorney’s Office, will serve as a special assistant Isanti County attorney for the state during the proceedings.

“Even though I believe that my office can remain impartial in this prosecution, due to the close professional relationship that the Isanti County Attorney’s Office has with Independent School District 911 in working with its administration, faculty, staff and students, I have appointed Paul Young of the Anoka County Attorney’s Office as a special assistant Isanti County attorney for this case to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest,” said Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad. “Mr. Young is a longtime assistant Anoka County Attorney and is the chief of the Violent Crimes Division of the Anoka County Attorney’s Office.”

During a press conference Sept. 29, Cambridge-Isanti Superintendent Ray Queener indicated the school district will launch its own independent investigation into the matter involving Grote. During the press conference, Queener indicated he couldn’t comment on the status of Grote’s employment with the school district.

Cambridge Intermediate School Principal Scott Peterson will oversee CPS, with support from Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Truebenbach and Queener.

“Earlier today a meeting was held with Cambridge Primary staff and that very message was communicated — to keep the focus on the teaching and learning that goes on each and every day in our schools,” Queener said. “Should any student have concerns or needs, we do have counselors available that will help them work through any challenges. The district will also have support available for our staff members.”

Queener reiterated the Cambridge-Isanti School District has a lot of positive things happening.

“The district is confident our staff will do their very best to maintain a professional atmosphere in the buildings and to keep the focus on teaching and learning with our kids. Cambridge Primary School is an excellent school; many great things have gone on and do go on there every day,” Queener said. “We are proud of Cambridge Primary and of District 911, and we are confident that we will work through this situation with the upmost professionalism, dedication and commitment — keeping the priority on what matters the most, and that’s the teaching and learning of our students.”

According to the criminal complaint:

On Sept. 28, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Isanti County Deputy Sheriff John Gillquist responded to a residential address in rural Isanti County pursuant to a report of an unwanted male party that would not leave the residence. Isanti County Deputy Sheriff Chad Meyer was monitoring radio traffic and heard the dispatch and responded as well.

The unwanted male party was identified as Grote. Meyer was familiar with the residence from a previous call on July 22, 2014, for the same unwanted male party, Grote, being present at the residence.

When Meyer arrived on scene, he was unable to locate Grote, but saw his vehicle. He talked to the complainant and she indicated he was on her back deck, but Meyer was unable to locate him there.

Meyer then began walking down the stairs of the deck to the backyard when he heard someone crashing through the woods. He then yelled very loudly, “stop, sheriff’s office” and began running toward the woods. Meyer continued a search through the woods and eventually found Grote lying down on his stomach with his hands underneath him. Meyer told Grote to put his hands behind his back, and after several times of noncompliance by Grote, Meyer activated his stun gun. Grote was placed under arrest and into the back seat of the squad car.

Meyer went back to the complainant and talked to her and her friend. The complainant stated she used to be in a relationship with Grote, but they had not been seeing each other for several months. She explained she had run into Grote earlier in the evening at an event in Cambridge, and he appeared intoxicated. She said he told her he would be driving to her home later that evening, and she indicated he wasn’t welcome at her residence.

Once the complainant and her friend arrived at the complainant’s residence, Grote started to repeatedly call her. At one point, the complainant’s friend took the phone and told Grote to stop calling, and she was going to call the police. It was when the friend was talking to Grote that she heard his voice outside, and they realized he was at the residence. The compliant’s friend stated Grote was scaring them, and his behavior was not right.

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Area churches partner to offer ‘Explore God’ series Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:21:23 +0000 A unique partnership involving 12 Isanti County churches kicks off this weekend featuring a six-week series called “Explore God.”

Bill Berg, pastor of New Hope Community Church and president of the ministerial association, explained the purpose of the series is to tackle and have conversation around some of the questions people have about God.

The six-week series runs Oct. 5 through Nov. 9 and will be offered at the following churches: Cambridge Lutheran Church, Elim Baptist Church, Faith Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church, Harvest Christian, Lakeside Christian Church, Long Lake Lutheran, New Hope Community Church, North Isanti Baptist, Oxlip Evangelical Free Church, River of Life and Springvale Baptist Church.

Berg explained each pastor at their respective churches will hold Sunday sermons on the following topics:

  • Oct. 5: What is the Purpose of Life?
  • Oct. 12: Who is Jesus?
  •  Oct. 19: What is the Bible?
  • Oct. 26: Who is Christianity for?
  • Nov. 2: God is Good. Why is there evil?
  • Nov. 9: How do we know God?

“All the 12 participating churches will follow this sequence of topics,” Berg said. “The hope is as we dialogue on these same topics on Sunday at different churches, the conversation will carry out into the community on Monday at work, school and in our neighborhoods. If you don’t have a church home, this is a great opportunity to visit a church of your choice and get in on the conversation.”

Along with the series, the churches each week will be taking a collection of specific items needed to help five local nonprofits:

  • Oct. 5: Hygiene items for New Pathways.
  • Oct. 12: Items for the Pregnancy Resource Center.
  • Oct. 19: Items for the local food shelves.
  • Oct. 26: Donations for the Shalom Shop.
  • Nov. 2: Hats and gloves for families in need.
  • Nov. 9: Kids Against Hunger packing meals event.

The community is also invited to a special prayer gathering from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 11 at First Baptist Church in Cambridge. Daniel Henderson, a national prayer leader, will be leading this time of worship and prayer. From 12:30-2 p.m. there will be a free lunch served to church staff and prayer teams, along with prayer training from Henderson. Those interested in attending need to RSVP by Oct. 8 to First Baptist Church by calling 763-689-1173.


As a senior pastor, Henderson brought prayer-based revitalization to several mega-churches (the last being Grace Church in Eden Prairie). Currently, he is dedicated full-time to helping congregations across the country experience renewal and turn-around as he speaks to thousands each year at conferences and prayer events. Henderson is president of Strategic Renewal, which exists to ignite personal renewal, congregational revival and leadership restoration for Christ’s glory.

The Explore God series ends with a communitywide packing of 100,000 meals for Kids Against Hunger at Cambridge-Isanti High School. The 12 churches invite the

community to participate in this great event by contacting Jeff Boyum at 763-267-1608 or

“The goal of this whole process is to get Isanti County dialoguing on questions about God, and our desire for them to realize he wants a relationship with them,” Berg said. “I think this series also shows our community that we have unity among churches in Isanti County, and we work well with each other. We internally gather together to do life together and highlight our similarities. When I visit with other pastor friends across the state, they are amazed with our ministerial association. The area churches really care a lot about the community and are an incredible asset to Isanti County.”

Berg said anyone is welcome to attend any church to hear about the Explore God series.

“We hope people invite their friends and neighbors to attend church and be part of the dialogue,” Berg said. “Pastor Andy Romstad from Cambridge Lutheran Church brought forth this idea last winter, and we are paralleling it with a program from churches in Austin, Texas. We are excited about this series and hope many people will come out and see what it’s all about.”

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Box City fundraiser raises an awareness about homelessness Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:18:42 +0000 During the month of September, New Pathways’ “Path to Home” program had to turn away 26 homeless families due to being at capacity.

New Pathways, based in Cambridge, serves homeless families with children by providing private sleeping accommodations, three meals a day, case management, skills training and a safe environment. It serves families with children from Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, Pine and Mille Lacs counties. fr_Box-City

New Pathways will host its annual Box City fundraising event Oct. 25 at the Isanti County Fairground in Cambridge.

Mary Westlund, program manager and family educator for New Pathways, explained Box City involves people spending the night in a cardboard box or tent.

Participants make their own dwelling from cardboard, duct tape, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or whatever they can find, with an award being given for the most creative dwelling by a group and individual. There are also awards given for “most rent raised” by a group and individual.

Westlund explained New Pathways is hoping Box City will raise $20,000 toward operating expenses for its Cambridge program.

“We have sponsorships who cover the cost of the event, so every $1 raised goes to support the operation of the shelter here in Cambridge,” Weslund said. “We can serve six families at a time, and through the month of September, we had to turn away 26 families. Even though it seems the economy is improving, these families aren’t making enough money to make ends meet. According to a recent Out of Reach survey for Isanti County, a person would have to work 2.4 full-time jobs at minimum wage to afford a standard two-bedroom home. The incomes in the area aren’t meeting the housing expenses.”

Box City registration materials can be downloaded on the New Pathways Facebook page or call Westlund at 763-691-0121, ext. 5, or email her at and ask to have them sent to you. Otherwise, you can stop at their office at 310 Ashland St. S., Cambridge, to pick up the materials.

Participants need to be 18 years of age or older to attend Box City without an adult chaperone. No more than six participants can be registered as a team, and each individual participant is asked to raise $75 (a team of six individuals needs to raise $450).

Registration is requested by Oct. 8 so each participant is guaranteed an event shirt, but participants have until the day of the event to turn in the money they raised. There will also be door prizes given throughout the evening. Those who register before Oct. 8 will receive one door prize ticket. Once a participant turns in their $75, they also receive one more door prize ticket. For each additional $50 raised beyond the initial $75, an additional door prize ticket is given.

The main door prize drawing is a Samsung Galaxy Tablet with an accessories package. Other prizes include a family pack to the Minnesota Children’s Museum, a $40 Target gift card, a Minnesota Lynx autographed basketball, custard for a year from Culver’s, pizza for a year from Papa Murphy’s and more. As door prizes come in, Westlund updates the Facebook page with pictures and descriptions of the new prizes.

Registration can also be done at the Isanti County Fairgrounds from noon to 3 p.m. on the day of the event, with people being able to set up their dwellings beginning at noon.

Westlund explained activities this year include a blow-up obstacle course, scavenger hunt, face painting, bingo and karaoke contest. There will also be multiple awareness activities beginning at 3 p.m. offered to teach participants about the struggles of homelessness. They include Dive for a Prize; Couch Hopping; Eviction Grab and Go; From Hard Times to Hollywood; Myths vs Reality; Luminaries; and Box City Family Feud.

The band Sheltered Reality will perform in the evening, and there will also be music and dancing in between by DJ Karl. Perkins will sponsor a Soup Kitchen for the participants during the evening. Casey’s General Store has donated donuts for breakfast that will be served with juice and coffee.

Box City is open to all including individuals, youth groups, corporate groups, service clubs, families, honor societies, scouting groups, 4-H and more. Westlund noted volunteers are still needed to help with the event.

“I feel a community is defined by the way they help those in need,” Westlund said. “We have a lot of people in need within our community and this is a way you can help a lot of people and it’s an opportunity to act out in faith, and your passion to do something for someone else. Box City is a fun event, and a great way to raise awareness about homelessness.”

Westlund explained the Cambridge site “Path to Home-An Interfaith Partnership” partners with 24 area churches, utilizing nearly 700 volunteers, to provide sleeping arrangements and meals for homeless families.

The program allows for six families, or a maximum of 24 people, to stay at a partner church. The churches take turns throughout the year to host the families for one week at a time.

Westlund explained last year the program served 32 families, with 108 families being turned away because the program was full. Since 2000, 476 families, including 620 adults and 881 children, have been served by New Pathways and 665 families have been turned away because the program was full.

The average family size in the program is four people, with 73 days being the average length of stay. Westlund explained 95 percent of the families who leave the program move into permanent housing.

Approximately 41 percent of the families in the program are from Isanti County, 25 percent from Chisago County, 22 percent from Mille Lacs County, 9 percent from Kanabec County, and 3 percent from Pine County.

Sponsors of this year’s Box City event includes Schlagel Inc., Perkins of Cambridge, East Central Sanitation, Cambridge-Isanti Rotary, Arrow Tank, Frandsen Bank, Shopko, D R Eicher Consulting and Lake State Credit Union.

For more information on New Pathways, visit or call 763-691-0121. Immediate needs for the program are also posted on the New Pathways Facebook page.

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Cambridge Fire Department cancels open house Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:14:40 +0000 The Cambridge Fire Department Open House that was scheduled for Monday, Oct. 6 has been cancelled due to the passing of retired Cambridge firefighter Tim Potrament Tuesday evening, Sept. 30.
Potrament spent 17 years with the Cambridge Fire Department before retiring from the department in 2013 to spend more time with his family. This past spring, Potrament, husband to Betsy, and father to Josie and Hattie, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Visitation for Potrament will be held beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5 at Carlson-Lillemoen Funeral Home in Cambridge. Funeral services will be held Monday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. at Cambridge Lutheran Church. Arrangements with Carlson-Lillemoen Funeral Home in Cambridge.

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Upper St. Croix Wine Trail reveals path to local winery scene Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:13:12 +0000 Sip wine, discover the buzz at Wine and Art Krawl this Saturday at three local wineries

The vineyards are on the “grow” across the local landscape, which is becoming a place of destination for folks in search of quality, locally produced wine and a memorable wine tasting experience.

The local winery scene can be accessed by the self-guided Upper St. Croix Wine Trail, where people will discover five family-owned wineries along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. On the way, take in the scenery of the river valley, farmlands and woodlands that contribute to the climate and geography that make the wineries and their wines unique.in_wineries

One of these wineries is James Perry Vineyards, 4790 480th St., Rush City. Jay and Sheila Wiggins, with sons Jim and Jerry Wiggins, opened shop last spring, and their award-winning wines already have attracted many to their place out in the country.

“We are a small artesian-style winery specializing in grape, mead and fruit wines,” Jay Wiggins said.

Next is North Folk Winery, 43150 Blackhawk Rd., Harris, where Mike and Ann Tessneer have built a wine tasting room with timbers from the Gunflint Trail area. Their wine is produced in small lots from locally grown fruit, and they enhance the experience with regular community events and gourmet pizza on Friday nights.

Customers enjoying wine at North Folk Winery.

Customers enjoying wine at North Folk Winery.

Third on the map is Wild Mountain Winery, 16906 Wild Mountain Rd., Taylors Falls, which is operated by three local families and winemaker Irv Geary, who share a passion for making Minnesota wine exclusively from the hardy grapes that grow in their vineyards atop one of the highest points in Chisago County. Visitors love the views while enjoying the wines year-round in their tasting rooms or on the patio.

Head into Wisconsin for the final two wineries on the trail. One includes Troy and Laura Chamberlin’s Chateau St. Croix Winery and Vineyard, 1998A State Rd. 87, St. Croix Falls, nestled in the rolling hills of the St. Croix Valley. They invite you to taste their award-winning wines and tour the winery.

Also in St. Croix Falls is Dancing Dragonfly Winery, 2013 120th Ave., where Bill and Christine Bluhm invite family and friends to enjoy some “great-tasting wine.” This winery offers a year-round tasting room and special event center, along with an outdoor deck and covered patio during the summer.

The members of the Upper St. Croix Wine Trail encourage folks to not forget about the restaurants, shops and bike paths along the trail. Trips can be planned at

Wine and Art Krawl, Oct. 4

Three local wineries are collaborating to host an annual fall event in celebration of art, food, song and, of course, wine.

The Upper St. Croix Wine and Art Krawl is set from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at Wild Mountain Winery, James Perry Vineyards and North Folk Winery.

Wild Mountain Winery

Wild Mountain Winery

Ann Tessneer, owner of North Folk Winery, said guests of this wine tasting extravaganza can experience the entire loop of wineries by taking advantage of a limo service provided by Lee’s Limousine for a modest fee. In addition to welcoming a variety of artists and vendors and fresh produce from local growers, North Folk will host a 2:30-4:30 p.m. performance by Strings ‘N Things, a high-energy band that plays folk, country, gospel, originals and covers. This free opening act will be followed by Ann Reed in concert (tickets are $15) from 5-7 p.m.

Reed, a past Minnesota Music Academy Performer of the Year, is known for her alto vocals, songwriting, guitar and rapport with audiences. Tickets for the Reed show can be purchased in person or by contacting 651-674-7548 or

Come out to the Wine and Art Krawl and experience the peak of the fall colors, Tessneer said. The event coincides with potter Robert Briscoe’s Annual Fall Studio Sale, a 25-year tradition that will take place from Oct. 3-5 at 2785 Stark Road, Harris, about a mile from the winery.Grapes

For directions and more information, contact North Folk Winery at 651-674-7548 or; Wild Mountain Winery, 651-583-3585 or; and James Perry Vineyards, 651-528-2858 or

For the St. Croix Falls-based wineries on the Upper St. Croix Wine Trail, contact Chateau St. Croix Winery and Vineyard at 715-483-2556 or and Dancing Dragonfly Winery at 715-483-WINE or

Look for a follow-up story on the local winery scene next week. 

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Get your own SweeTango Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:06:22 +0000 Jake Whitney maxed-out three credit cards to open Stanchfield-based Jake’s Apple Shack. Today, he’s one of the few orchards that lets customers pick their own SweeTango apples.

The coveted apple was developed in recent years by the University of Minnesota and is a hybrid of the Honeycrisp and Zestar. It’s as juicy as an orange and as sweet as sugar with a hearty crunch and hint of spice and citrus. It’s a light, airy apple with a short production season. It’s also Whitney’s favorite variety.

“For me it’s the sugar,” Whitney said. “I like the sweetness, the slight tang. The name is very descriptive: sweet with a tangy finish.”

His love for the fruit dates back to when he was a child, eating apple crisp. He remembers countless autumns trying to recreate the crisp recipe from memory. That progressed into a love for apples and a dream of making it a profession.

Owner Jake WhitneyOwner Jake Whitney

Owner Jake WhitneyOwner Jake Whitney

After taking on odd jobs to pay for his passion, Whitney finally got the mortgage for his orchard at the age of 19. Five years later, he planted his first 700 trees on the lot in 2007. A bad drought, fire blight and deer killed 600 of them that year, but Whitney still has the original 100. It’s grown exponentially in the last eight years — he cultivates varieties from Harrelson to Snow Sweet — and he’s been selling for the past four years.

This is the first year Whitney has let customers pick their own apples, and it’s improved business by 70 percent.

“I like to see people enjoy what I’ve built,” Whitney said. “It’s actually quite interesting to stand off in the distance and see a family picking apples. They really enjoy being able to pick their own.”

Whitney’s father, David Whitney, also grows and sells other produce on the property. He tells customers to look at the shaded side of the apple for ripeness. For the SweeTango, the shaded side should be yellow.

“How you tell ripeness of the apple is not the sun side – the red side,” David Whitney said. “It’s the background color – the shaded side.”

Right now, about 90 percent of the SweeTango are ripe for the picking. Jake Whitney also will have Wealthy and Frostbite apples in the future.

Another tip Jake Whitney has for orchard-goers is to grab, turn and pull when picking – instead of grabbing, pulling and ripping.

“Grabbing and pulling will make the branch spring up, and the other apples on the branch will fall,” Jake Whitney said.

The orchard has been open for business for about four weeks this season and will continue to offer apple picking on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to dusk and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their season ends around Oct. 31.

“Customer flow tells us when the season should end,” Whitney added.

Jake’s Apple Shack carries a variety of apples ripe for picking. The SweeTango is its most popular variety. 
Photos by 
Urmila Ramakrishnan

The family-supported business is a strong believer in the University of Minnesota plant releases. David Whitney is currently selling fall raspberries.

Pumpkin, squash, onion, potato and garlic are also for sale at 601 375th Ave. NE, Stanchfield. For more information about the orchard, visit the Facebook page or

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