COMMUNITY ORCHARD — Tim McDonnell with Kansas State University Community Forestry coordinator, instructs the volunteers on the proper way to plant the orchard thees. McDonnell volunteered to come to Independence and help supervise the project that will have an orchard blossoming in Independence. Steve McBride | Staff Photo
COMMUNITY ORCHARD — Tim McDonnell with Kansas State University Community Forestry coordinator, instructs the volunteers on the proper way to plant the orchard thees. McDonnell volunteered to come to Independence and help supervise the project that will have an orchard blossoming in Independence. Steve McBride | Staff Photo

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away, but that's probably not what Dr. Anne Hogsett was thinking when she had a vision of a community orchard. 

On Tuesday, a group of community volunteers from all walks of life came together to bring to fruition this vision of a community orchard.

"I noticed that when my patients were coming in to see me at the Mercy Clinic, they would be eating an apple - an apple that they had plucked from the apple trees planted in front of the building," said Dr. Hogsett.

She noted she has a passion for helping people eat healthy and the idea to create a community orchard came from those very patients picking the apples from the clinic's planted trees. It was then that her husband, Gary Hogsett, was selected to fill-in a vacancy on the Independence City Commission. From there, the opportunity to have an orchard presented itself to acquire land - making her idea become a reality.   

"At my very first meeting, there was a gentleman that wanted to give this property at 17th Street and Walnut to the city," said Gary Hogsett.

The property owner told the commission that he no longer wanted the property and wanted to give it to the city of Independence as a donation.  

"I called him and asked him if he would want to donate the property to a charitable organization, to which he agreed," Hogsett said. "It was a very exciting moment for us. This is our first attempt at a community orchard. There are a lot of little lots around town that nobody wants and are perfect for this type of project.  We are hoping to do one of these orchards every year."

The idea began to flourish with donations, along with the legal services and surveying. Special people that Hogsett credited were Joe Knickerbocker, Walt Stair and Ken DeVore; each man helped prepare the land and provide the trees.  

"So, far we have spent virtually nothing to develop this project," Hogsett said.

Knowing they needed help with educating themselves about planting orchards, Knickerbocker, a local tree expert, discussed the type of trees that would be needed for the community orchard. 

He told them that they needed to talk to Tim McDonnell, Kansas State University Community Forestry coordinator next for more information.

"Tim helps communities with their tree issues," Hogsett said.

McDonnell was contacted regarding the need for his services in helping develop the orchard due to his expertise. 

"I told the Hogsett's that I wanted to come down to Independence and help layout the orchard and supervise the planting of the trees," McDonnell said.

During his presentation of how to plant the trees, along with discussing the varieties selected due to the soil and climate of Kansas, McDonnell detailed how "encouraging" the amount of volunteers was during the first-dig, honoring the trees to be planted for future enjoyment.

"Community orchards are very difficult to get established and maintained. I was encouraged by the number of volunteers that came to help plant the trees. If this kind of volunteerism that was present today will continue to maintain the orchard, it will be successful," said McDonnell.

The community orchard will not only help beautify the vacant lots around town, but provide healthy eating for families throughout the city.