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A group of Young Leaders listens to Don Kraemer, acting deputy director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, during the leadership luncheon.

A group of Young Leaders listens to Don Kraemer, acting deputy director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, during the leadership luncheon.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Apple Association

Andy Ferguson is a 25-year-old fruit grower’s son, and next month, he’ll get his law degree. He wants to make a career as an attorney but keep his ties to the fruit farm—and to the apple industry.

“No work is below me,” he said about what he does on the farm, and he plans to keep that attitude as he grows into other roles.

He wants to be the farm’s legal counselor and work on its business development when his brother, Joe, comes home from the Marines to do much of the orchard production and management with their parents, Tom and Deb Ferguson.

They’ve already taken steps to employ more families in the family business, which has been expanding. They now have two commercial orchards and three U-pick and retail operations spread over more than 100 miles in the Upper Mississippi Valley apple production area on both sides of the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

Andy is among those 15 young growers in the U.S. Apple Association’s third class of Young Apple Leaders. Not only does he want to tackle the business side of fruit production in the family enterprise, he wants to take on the apple industry’s larger problems as well. He thinks, being both an apple grower and a lawyer, he may have some useful qualifications.

In common with many of the younger generation coming into farming, he’s more focused on marketing than on fruit production. Ferguson’s Morningside Orchards has three locations in Galesville and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Lake City, Minnesota. They are “agritainment” places with hayrides and corn mazes, barnyards with animals to pet, apples to pick, country stores, and videos on YouTube.

Andy graduated from the University of Minnesota and is earning his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. This summer, after becoming a licensed attorney, Andy will become general counsel and vice president of business development for his family’s orchard. He’s also started a practice called Agribusiness Legal Solutions to do work for other fruit-growing families on licensing agreements, succession planning, liability issues for farm markets, and other tasks.