Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 8, 2003

Orchard rolls out acts of kindness

By Liz Hellmann

The spirit of giving has wheels at the Fall Harvest Orchard in Montrose ­ the wheels of a wooden wagon, that is.

Owners Curtis and Helen Peterson offer wagon rides for donations each year, and decided to contribute the proceeds this year, or more than $1,100, toward the Wright County Historical Society.

"It was an unsolicited act of kindness," said Maureen Galvin of the Wright County Historical Society.

The Petersons decided to help preserve local history by donating the money after seeing an article in the newspaper about the Historical Society's need for new storage facilities.

The preservation idea seemed to fit for the Petersons. They decided to place a donation box at the end of the ride and give funds raised toward the new storage project.

The project features a special humidity and temperature control storage facility to store artifacts so they wouldn't disintegrate over time, Galvin said.

One of the biggest problems was exposure to acid in the wood of their previous storage system, Galvin said.

The project also includes a compact movable shelving unit to make the most of the limited space.

The project cost totaled more than $105,000, she said.

The historical society received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services of $48,300.

They still needed to raise $30,000 this summer, which is when the article was published that inspired the Petersons to help.

The Petersons called the historical society first to ask if they could donate the money from their wagon ride, and of course the historical society was more than happy to accept.

When they counted the money at the end of the season they were surprised to find how much it came to.

The historical society was also surprised and grateful for their Petersons' generosity and of those who gave.

Although this is not the first time the Petersons have donated money, this is by far the most they have ever raised. They believe it is partly due to the good weather this season.

Wagon rides with heart

The Petersons began giving wagon rides a few years ago to home schooled families who wanted to learn more about agriculture.

Gradually more people, most of whom are from Western suburbs, were drawn to the wagon rides as a way to learn about the history of agriculture in the area.

"Most of us adults either grew up on farms or near them, nowadays kids don't have that. I think that's what attracts people." Curtis Peterson said.

When people began to ask about paying for the wagon rides the Petersons came up with the idea of a donation box. Every year they choose a new cause to give to.

They run the wagon rides from the end of August to mid November, and didn't have to cancel many times because of rain.

The Petersons wagon ride focuses on teaching people about the history of agriculture around the area, and on educating children in the different kinds of grains, corn, and wheat.

They are happy they could use the funds they raised to further help preserve their community and its past, the Petersons said.

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