Iowa Orchard hosts international horticulture students

As city gets bigger, orchard keeps growing: Iowa Orchard serves up produce and education

By Tiffany de Masters, The Des Moines Register

Employees at Iowa Orchard bustled about on a crisp fall morning last week as they prepared to open for the day.

Hundreds of pumpkins were on display outside, lined up in perfect rows. The store smelled of fresh-baked apple pies. Tarps were pulled off the children’s activities and hayrack ride.

This is the busiest time of year for Bryan Etchen and his employees at the orchard at 9875 Meredith Drive in Urbandale.

“I was a little boy when we started here; it was 1975,” Etchen said of the family-owned business.

There are 500 trees on the property. Etchen said they are a variety of tart cherry, pear, plum and apple. The orchard is booming in business for cider and pies. Along with Iowa Orchard, he said, the family owns two other orchards and rents out three more. They have 20,000 trees in production.

As the metro area has developed, Urbandale and surrounding communities have grown around the orchard. Etchen said that’s what sets Iowa Orchard apart from many others.

“Many orchards have come and gone, but we’re still here,” he said.

Etchen said orchards are an important part of America’s history.

“It’s part of American fabric and teaches us about food and where it truly comes from; children need to know that,” he said.

Etchen said more people continue to be food conscientious, but there are still a lot of people to reach.

The orchard owner not only uses his property to grow fruit, but as an opportunity to teach children and college students about business. Horticulture students around the world learn about working at an orchard at the Urbandale site.

“We have seven (international) students and we teach them the business and horticulture,” Etchen said. He works with two students each from France and Brazil, and one each from Finland, Germany and Ukraine.

Etchen said the company has provided opportunities for study-abroad students for 19 years.

Celine Bonnet, 21, of France, and Maryna Sklir, 20, of Ukraine, are among those working for Etchen. Both women are studying agriculture at their home universities.

Sklir said working at the orchard will be similar to her future profession in agriculture. Bonnet said she would like to eventually help agriculture in France.

Both women thought coming to Iowa Orchard was a good opportunity learn English as well as learn about horticulture.

“It’s a good possibility to learn English, learn a lot of new things about the business and work in the orchard,” Sklir said.

Bonnet said her favorite part has been going to the farmers market.

The women will be here for about five months to learn the trade.

Keywords: