Adam, 6, Alex,15, and Madelyn Bertsch, 9, work together to wrap a small Evans Bali Cherry tree with netting to protect the ripening fruit from birds at their home in Sartell June 15.

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Matt and Carolyn Bertsch, members of St. Francis Xavier Parish, moved to Sartell in 2001. Shortly after, they planted a small orchard. They researched which fruit trees would do well in their climate zone, which ones could act as possible pollinators and then started planting. They now have pears, apples, cherries, plums and apricots. They also grow currants and gooseberries.

“Our original mission was to be able to sustain our own family, give to our friends and extended family and to the local emergency food shelves,” Carolyn said. “Our three-fourths acre lot was bare with the exception of three mature maples and an ash tree. We thought the best way to utilize the space we had was to plant fruit-bearing trees that would give back to us and enable us to give to others.”

Instilling values

The Bertsches strive to instill positive values like gratitude, temperance, integrity and effort in their three children, Alex, 15, Mady, 9, and Adam, 6.

“There are lots of outside influences pursuing their own agendas on our kids every day,” Carolyn said. “That is why it is important to instill your values in them while you can. I think gratitude is a key to happiness. When we are mindful of and grateful for that which God has given us we can more easily look away from everything we are told we need or should want. And, with this mindset of gratitude and abundance, we free ourselves to give more generously to others who are in need.”

They say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Carolyn’s inspiration to live a “greener” life comes from her dad and her son, Alex.

“Some of my favorite memories with my dad are of hot summer evenings when we would walk around our yard gently spraying all the evergreens he had planted with cool water,” she said. “We would spend time talking about them, measuring their growth and just enjoying our time together.”

Later, he also planted a small orchard of apples, cherries, pears and plums, not unlike the Bertsches’ orchard. “Locally, our efforts with the orchard will have a positive impact in our immediate community, especially as more of the trees mature,” Carolyn said.

Their son, Alex, is also very conscious of the environment. Five years ago, he dug a garden plot and has provided fresh fruits and vegetables for their family ever since, Carolyn said.

“Some of the original plants were grown from seeds harvested from foods in our refrigerator and then grown aquaponically in his own bedroom via goldfish and a contraption he made from old gutters, a pond insert, lights and a water softener piece,” Carolyn explained.

This year he is expecting a shitake mushroom harvest.

“Alex encourages us to live more sustainably and organically,” she said. “I believe that one day he will in some way change how we do things in the way of energy, farming and/or the environment, and we will all wonder why we hadn’t thought of it years ago.”

He also built a composting bin and a bee box, designed for solitary bees which are known to be extremely docile and excellent pollinators.

Think globally, act locally

“In this way, we do our own small part in helping the world on a global level,” Carolyn said. “It feels good to save egg shells, coffee grounds and watermelon rinds and to know that instead of becoming waste, they will create nutritious soil for Alex’s garden, which will, in turn, provide a bountiful harvest. Retaining seeds and composting are, in a way, just another means of showing gratitude for the food in whole because what is not fully consumed is still used in some beneficial way.”

The family’s business, Four Seasons Window, Carpet and Air Duct Cleaning, has also made strides in ecological care.

“As a business, we strive to be a green company in every aspect possible,” Carolyn said. “We clean carpets and upholstery with a plant-based cleaner that contains essential oils from Young Living. We also diffuse essential oils during this process and use them in our air duct cleaning as well. We are currently in the process of researching methods of collecting pure rainwater for use in our window cleaning side.”

The Bertsch family says there are simple ways people in urban areas can make a difference. Alex suggests that one way people can get started is by purchasing products from local organic farmers.

Besides reducing waste, reusing old items and recycling, they say one of the simplest things people can do is to just plant a fruit tree.

“There are many varieties that are self-pollinating,” Carolyn said, “so even if you have a small lot of land, a single tree can still bear fruit. Give thanks for the fruit it bears, and with a spirit of gratitude and abundance, share with others.”