Growing in Harmony

Albrecht's Nursery and Orchard offers education and organic trees

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Don Albrecht had been collecting apple varieties for years, and working in orchards for decades, by the time he decided to open his own fruit tree farm. His wife, Janeen, sent him out to Chippewa Falls to buy her a Jeep, and on the way he found a 13.5 acre lot he couldn’t pass up. This plot, located at 13941 98th Ave. in Chippewa Falls, became the home of Albrecht’s Nursery and Orchard.

"I always thought you had to go get a job like everybody else did ... we were doing this for many many years – we just didn't know there was an outlet for it." – Don Albrecht, Albrecht's Nursery and Orchard

“Some people collect baseball cards,” Don said. “I collect apple trees.”  There are more than 250 varieties of apple tree in his personal collection, which he is always adding to. He keeps his plants healthy with organic growing practices, meaning he gives up the immediate convenience of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for natural techniques such as companion planting and permaculture.

“I always thought you had to go get a job like everybody else did,” Don said. So when the orchard slowly and surely gained a customer base, he was pleasantly surprised that his hobbies were paying off. “We were doing this for many, many years – we just didn’t know there was an outlet for it.”

Don Albrecht
Don Albrecht

Albrecht’s sells more than 80 varieties of apple tree, which is their main product. They also offer pears, apricots, cherries, plums, and a number of berry varieties, as well as a few landscaping shrubs and perennial plants. Don leads grafting workshops where participants can learn about the process of attaching a tree branch to a rootstalk to grow a viable tree, and he offers organic orchard consulting services.

“I don’t know how to grow apples conventionally anymore,” Don said. His growing practices focus on encouraging harmony between flora and fauna by creating a cooperative ecosystem.

“We spend so much time trying to kill things that wanna live, and keep things alive that wanna die,” Don said. “You go out into the forest, into the natural woods, and everything seems to work just fine until we step into them.”

Chickadees called to one another as Don explained the importance of harmony in the growing process. Parasites distress trees, causing them to yield prolific amounts of fruit. Birds and wasps keep the population of tree-damaging insects low enough that they don’t do lasting damage. In the absence of chemical pesticides, pollinators such as bees and butterflies are able to thrive. Companion planting helps stave off weeds and maintain soil conditions.

This harmony extends throughout the Chippewa Falls community of nurseries and individual growers. Klinger Farm Market and Circle M Nursery refer customers to Albrecht’s when appropriate, and Albrecht’s returns the favor. Don volunteers at the HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital community garden, where he tends to a row of apple trees. “I take it upon myself, that’s gonna be the best row of apple trees around there,” he said. “But that’s all for the community.”

Albrecht customers are some of the best people in the state, Don said. Folks come for the classes and products and stay to visit the Albrechts and talk about organic farming. Don hasn’t pursued having Albrecht’s certified as organic because he wants people to ask questions about how his nursery operates and to know their farmers.

Why does he spend so much time educating and providing resources for Chippewa Falls residents to grow their own fruit?

“They’ll know why they should (grow their own food) once they harvest it and eat it,” he said. “They know where it came from, there’s a sense of satisfaction. When you go harvest that apple for the first time, that’s what it’s all about.”