Education the primary focus at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

While many of us associate Kimmel Orchard with apples, hayrack rides, or donuts, its main mission is education.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard Educational Foundation General Manager Jennie Tachovsky and Managing Director Justin Wissman discussed the various educational programs offered at the facility during the Aug. 18 Nebraska City Rotary Club meeting.

The foundation partners with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to provide a “living, breathing, indoor/outdoor classroom,” which provides opportunities for students in a variety of majors to come to Nebraska City and put their education to a real-world test, said Wissman.

He said the partnership gives the staff at the orchard and vineyard a chance to learn the latest industry trends from the students while the students observe and experience the day-to-day operations of the facility. 

Professors and graduate students also use the orchard for research projects. some of which involve honeybees. Wissman said the UNL Bee Lab, a recent two-year program at the orchard and vineyard, has been extended for an additional four years of study.

Researchers hope to learn how to help bees and other pollinators in the face of pesticide usage, hive collapse, and other problems, said Wissman. 

The orchard and vineyard hosted a day-long UNL Bee Lab Mead Making Workshop on Aug. 14, said Tachovsky. She explained that mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey. 

She added that AppleJack Festival plans call for a live demonstration on honey extraction at the Education and Research Center.

Right now, the Kimmel store sells only UNL-produced honey, said Wissman, who added that Kimmel borrows hives from a beekeeper in Falls City during the growing season until the UNL bee colony gets established enough that they can be used exclusively at the orchard and vineyard. The bees return to Falls City and Lincoln to winter over offsite, he said.

Another educational opportunity presented at Kimmel is the annual summer interm program, said Tachovsky. This summer’s group of five interns is in the process of returning to their respective campsuses, she said.

“It’s amazing what they bring to the table,” she said.

Wissman said during the pandemic, UNL took advantage of virtual internship meetings to expand its potential market for interns to include high-producing orchard states, said Wissman. 

Although those efforts have not yet been successful, he said he remains hopeful for future interns from states such as Washington and Georgia.

The Nebraska City Rotary Club meets at noon Wednesday at Valentino’s, 1710 S. 11th.

Cole Sharp is the club president. Call (402) 873-0530 for more information.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard Educational Foundation General Manager Jennie Tachovsky, left, and Managing Director Justin Wissman speak during the Wednesday Rotary program.