The Southern Red River Valley isn’t known for its pears and apricots.
Nevertheless, Orville Fenske of Wahpeton was able to grow them both — and a mini-produce department worth of fruits and vegetables — in his backyard this summer.
“I’ve been here now for 20 years and growing pears for 15 years,” said Fenske, 93. “Pears and apricots will grow in this area.”
Those pears and apricots are enjoyed by not only Fenske, but Twin Towns Area residents. He often donates what he grows to the Richland Wilkin Food Pantry.
“I’ll say he averages 30 pounds of food every 2-3 weeks,” said Lois Fenske, food pantry director and Fenske’s niece. “They are so tasty.”
A recent visit to Fenske’s garden revealed not only fruits, but vegetables ranging from beans to tomatoes. The edibles are rivaled by the flowers, including dahlias and gladiolus.
Gardeners often donate to the food pantry, Lois Fenske explained. Between Aug. 22-29, 800 pounds of produce were received.
“Pretty soon, we’ll receive the fall squash. What we’re most in need of is canned vegetables, especially corn. We also need peanut butter and jelly,” she said.
Orville Fenske eats as much of his fruits and vegetables as he can. What doesn’t go to himself or the food pantry goes to the animals raised by his grandsons.
“They live out on the farm, which is a Centennial Farm,” Fenske explained.
First owned by Erich and Verna Fenske 102 years ago, the farm was honored in 2017 by Agricultural Commissioner Doug Goehring, R-N.D. It is located in Brandenburg Township, Richland County, North Dakota.
“What else I can salvage, I take to the food pantry,” Fenske continued. “I eat what’s in season and take a lot to the food pantry.”
There is a growing number of gardeners who will raise crops solely for the food pantry, Lois Fenske explained.
“Every year, they’ll find out what we’re most in need of and they’ll plant that,” she said.
Current forecasts have the Twin Towns Area experiencing wet and cloudy weather for Labor Day and beyond. Temperatures are expected to reach highs in the low 70s, which provides for backyard comfort in between the rain. That’s good enough for Orville Fenske.
“I love flowers, as you can see. This keeps me busy, which is nice at age 93. I’ve got the whole works,” he said.
The Richland Wilkin Food Pantry is located at 699 Eighth Ave. S. in Wahpeton. For more information about donating, call 701-642-1921.