History of Union Orchard
University Fruit Farm
Wanting to establish a demonstration fruit farm to “show the possibility of developing the suitable lands of southeastern Nebraska for commercial orchard purposes,” in 1917 the University of Nebraska researched and considered many parcels of land before choosing an 80-acre tract near Union. It became known as The University Fruit Farm.
Initially, forty acres were set aside for the commercial apple orchard. In a few years, cherry, peach, pear and plum trees were added – as well as additional acres of small fruit (grapes, gooseberries, currants, raspberries strawberries and blackberries). The balance of the land was leased and planted into farm crops to help pay expenses.
Over the forty-five years The University Fruit Farm was in operation, buildings and improvements were added that were suitable for their 80-acre farm. Through the years the Farm served as a “practical demonstration of the possibilities of apple growing…in eastern Nebraska.” During this time, the University published many reports and studies on fruit planting and production.
Lechner Families Union Orchard
The University Fruit Farm was sold by the University of Nebraska in 1961 – becoming a family orchard. It was renamed Union Orchards and most recently was known as Lechner Families Union Orchard.
New Owners – The Wostrel Family’s Union Orchard
In late 2011, Lechner Families Union Orchard was sold to Terry and Carla Wostrel. The Wostrel Family is a “Nebraska Pioneer Family” having first settled in Cumming County in 1875. A three-year redevelopment of the property has begun. As most of the existing 6500 fruit trees are over 50 years old, they will need to be replanted. Thirty acres will be replanted in apples, peaches, and pears. The remainder of the property will be planted in pumpkins, heirloom squash, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and elderberries. A small area of tallgrass prairie (native grasses) will be restored.