Local family finds bliss in business

by HANNAH BROADBENT
hannah.broadbent@ecm-inc.com

Just outside of Watertown sits a 155 acre apple orchard, petting zoo, corn maze and vineyard. This haven is called the LuceLine Orchard. It is a family operation, owned by Rich and Terri (Traen) Pawelk.

The Pawelk’s just recently finished the remodel of their barn into a gift shop and multipurpose space. They make sure to only carry local Minnesota businesses. CCN/Hannah Broadbent

The Pawelk’s bought the property along the Luce Line Trail in 2004, though they’ve had their eyes on it for almost as long as they can remember.
“They’ve always wanted a farm, it’s a labor of love for them,” said daughter Paige Lynch.

Rich said they didn’t necessarily plan on having apples, he said it happened that way because he had previous experience in orchards before.

“I thought I knew something about apples,” he said laughing.

In 2007 the Pawelk’s planted their first 300 apple trees and in 2013 they started their vineyard. Now they have almost 10,000 trees, 6,500 grape vines and 10 acres of pumpkins. Terri remembers in 2011 when they started by selling apples on the side of the road.

Rich and Terri Pawelk and grandson Walter stand on the balcony of their barn looking over one section of their orchard that sits on their 155 acre property. CCN/Hannah Broadbent

“Back then I said, if we’re going to do this we have to be all in,” Terri said.

Still, the enterprise expanded due to their longing for a farm their own. With that goal and their family in mind they moved forward. They built a seven mile nature trail, took in rescue ducks and got more and more animals. Each animal is named after family members.

“It was kind of a field of dreams, we were building it and didn’t really know what we were building,” Rick said.

He said they made the farm into exactly what they wanted, and one day people just kind of started showing up.

In September 2012 they officially opened as Luce Line Orchard. They credit their friends and family, saying it wouldn’t have been possible without them. Terri said family is the most important and their favorite thing in life.

The orchard also features a petting zoo. Rick Pawelk said all his animals are pets, and none will ever be butchard. This is Katie the cow, named after the daughter-in-law. Katie enjoys being fed and taken on walks. CCN/Hannah Broadbent

The Pawelk’s have three kids, twins Paige and Abby and their son Reed. Paige said they work perfectly together and all kids have kind of found their niche in the family business. Paige is a professional veterinarian and usually finds herself working with the animals and out in the orchard. She said her sister Abby is good with people and works in the orchard’s gift shop. Reed is usually the one driving the hay rides.

“It’s nice to have a family business,” Paige said. “I love seeing how happy people are when they come here.”

The property borders the Luce Line Trail. Terri said they often see horseback riders and bikers visiting the farm. Terri herself used to live along the trail and said she knew she always wanted to end up near the trail again.

There are eight different types of apples on the orchard. Including Honeycrisp, Sweetango and Vestar. CCN/Hannah Broadbent

Now, they say they get to pass that love onto their three grandkids. Walter, is Paige’s son and is 5 years-old. While on the farm, he fits right in. He runs around the orchard and loves the animals, but he is still getting used to the baby chickens.

“I like to drive the gators,” Walter said.

“If you ask him whose farm it is, he’ll say it’s his,” Rick added.

Each year the farm and the amount of activities it offers to the public is expanding. They have a corn sandbox, hayrides, a petting zoo, a pumpkin patch, an apple launcher, mini horse rides and a rolling-down-the-hill contest. Terri’s favorite part though is the nature trail, which has become a popular spot for engagements.

“We’re kind of shooting from the hip,” Rick said. “We can’t wait to see what it morphs into.”

Recently they have held a few weddings at the orchard for family and friends. He says his focus now is getting a liquor license to officially start offering weddings at the property. He hopes to have the license sometime during this season.

The farm has eight different types of apples including Honeycrisp, Sweetango and Zestar. They also have pear and plum trees and grow four different types of grapes.

Rick retired from U.S. foods last year and as far as upkeep says he is still behind from it.

“I don’t know how he did both,” Terri said.

Now, the Pawelk’s don’t have much to do until they open on labor day. Rick said at this point it’s about helping the apple’s grow and hoping they don’t have anymore severe weather.

“It’s pure excitement for this next year,” Terri said.

Visit lucelineorchard.com to get more information.