‘I love apples’ retiring farmer says
Is Dave Hanson a farmer or a teacher?
It seems both, as he tools around on his Dodge Center hobby farm on a golf cart. As he drives, he narrates about the trees, buildings and history of everything on his 10-acre Hanson’s Apple Farm. In between his narration, he fields incoming calls on his flip phone. He’s a popular guy, it seems.
“The farmer here had retired as a dairy farmer,” Hanson said of his large barn, which is on the property where he operates his apple orchard. Hanson bought the property in 1971.
Also known around the area as the “apple man,” Hanson raised five kids on his farm with his wife Ruth, who is deceased. His adult children will retain two acres on the farm, but their inherited property doesn’t have any apple trees on it.
“I wanted the kids to have a country living experience,” Hanson said of raising his family there.
At age 89, Hanson is retiring from farm life and will move to Prairie Meadows Senior Living in Kasson in a few weeks. Then on October 2, he’ll turn over the keys to the farm to its new owners.
Hanson is excited to pass the farm onto a young family, which is made up of a couple and their two kids — with one more on the way, Hanson is quick to say.
“They love the idea of trees,” he said. “They want to save the orchard and expand it.”
His orchard has 27 trees now, each with a CD hanging from a wire to ward off crows. One early apple he loves growing is Zestar! And a second apple ready a bit later is Keepsake.
Cortland apples are also grown here, which Hanson describes as “a really good apple.” Honeycrisp are available too and are an apple that are good at any stage, he said.
Hanson has enjoyed hosting Triton Elementary students at his orchard every fall, and figures that during the years he’s been in the apple business, he’s had hundreds of school children out to the farm.
“He’s made an impact on generations in the Dodge Center or Triton area,” said Hanson’s neighbor Chris Pluto. “How do you sum it up in a few words?”
Hanson served as Pluto’s sponsor for the Dodge Center Lions, where he’s still active. He’s also known as the area’s arborist and is a go-to for knowledge for the local Historical Society.
“All the trees around Triton school have been touched by Dave Hanson,” Pluto said. “He had a hand in all the trees planted in the Dodge County area, so that’s pretty amazing. He’s a fixture.”
Fellow Dodge Center resident and Lions member Carol Johnson concurs, saying Hanson is their annual go-to when they plant a tree on Arbor Day and teach second graders about tree planting.
Hanson connects so well to people because of his disarming personality, sources say.
“His kindness,” Johnson said. “His compassion to help people and his love for educating children with the apple orchard and growing apples and the trees he plants at Triton school.”
Johnson is also quick to note that Hanson made quite an impact during his years at the Extension Office, whereby he interacted with 4H kids during the 1970s, 1980s and later.
“He really was a fine example for many young people in our county,” she said. “Not just in Dodge Center but in our entire county.”
As for how successful he’s been, Hanson said enjoyment is one benchmark. If it’s income you gauge success by, his apple income has varied wildly from $1,000 to $9,000 each season.
Hanson’s son Ken picks the apples and Hanson bags them. He sells apples based on an honor system, with a small shed at his farm entrance featuring bagged apples for sale.
“It’s a hobby,” he said. “I love apples and everything apple.”