Minnesota Growers take Hardy to Heart

An Edina grower becomes a pioneer in Minnesota horticulture.

Learn about the history of your neighborhood and its pioneers. Visit the Edina History Museum’s “Edina on the Map” exhibit on display through Fall 2014. 612.928.4577; edinahistoricalsociety.org

Horace Greeley, the same New York newspaper editor who made popular the phrase “Go West, young man!” apparently felt differently about the livability of Minnesota. After an 1865 visit, he proclaimed, “I would not live in Minnesota, because you cannot grow apples there.” Local growers took what Greeley said as “fighting words.”

Jonathan Grimes, owner of the large Lake Calhoun Nursery was among those who set out to prove Greeley wrong. In 1866, Grimes and other like-minded growers formed the Minnesota Fruit Growers Association, now known as the Minnesota State Horticultural Society and publisher of Northern Gardener.

Grimes experimented with a variety of apples and planting methods. He grew everything from apples to berries but became best known for bringing hardy shade trees and some exotic varieties to the state. Minnesota growers had the last word. They invited Greeley to attend the 1871 State Fair to see a noble display of apples in one hundred seedling varieties, and a large exhibit of small fruits. Stretched above the table was a banner with Greeley’s inflammatory words now proven false.