May 29, 2018
Stark Bro’s restores Walt Disney’s favorite apple trees to orchard

“Where Dreams Come True” is a famous slogan usually associated with Disneyland and Disneyworld, but on Friday, some Disney magic held court in the small town of Marceline, Missouri, where Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. replaced 11 Wolf River apple trees at Walt’s childhood home.

Disney fan club members contribute soil from the Disney studios to the planting hole on the DIsney Family Farm in Missouri.

In the very early 1900s, Wolf River trees grew in the orchard on the Disney farm in Marceline. Walt loved the pies his mother would make with only one or two of the apples — the fruits can weigh up to a pound apiece. The trees were long gone until Matt Bollinger, IT Manager for Stark Bro’s (and a diehard Disney fan), struck up a friendship with Kaye Malins, executive director of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Matt and Kaye discussed the idea of restoring Walt’s favorite apple trees to the orchard, and soon, a plan was hatched to have Stark Bro’s donate and plant the trees as part of a special “Return to Marceline” event on May 25, which treated 100 Disney fan club members to a special day of learning about the impact this bucolic setting had on Walt’s boyhood days and future successes.

“Knowing that the Wolf River trees in the Disney family orchard probably came from Stark Bro’s well over100 years ago … it’s fitting that these legacies cross paths again,” said Bollinger. “It was a great honor for Stark Bro’s to help Disney and the Marceline folks bring back the WolfRiver apple trees for future generations to appreciate and enjoy …. just like Walt did.”

The formal tree planting was a special surprise for the fans. Senior Disney staff actually brought soil from the Disney studios in California, and parsed it out into small souvenir pails for the fan club members. Each member contributed their “Disney Dirt” to the tree holes, a symbolic and meaningful gesture that clearly had an emotional impact on the group.

Stark Bro’s Chief Marketing Officer Ken Lane explains the history of the Wolf River apple during the “Return to Marceline” event at the Disney Family Farm.

Ken Lane, Stark Bro’s Chief Marketing Officer, gave some crowd-pleasing remarks just prior to the actual tree planting, evoking some familiar Disney-isms and sentimental reactions. Said Lane afterward, “You could really feel the Disney magic in Marceline. Walt’s presence is everywhere. Being given the opportunity to bring back something that had such meaning to him was an honor for all of us.”

The event was broadcast on Facebook Live. The videos can be viewed here:

Not many people know about Disney’s connection to Missouri. The Disney Farm is where the famous “Dreaming Tree” used to grow. It was a large cottonwood (that perished in 2015) under which Walt spent many hours observing nature and letting his imagination run free. The inspiration he drew from these introspective moments eventually influenced the creation of Mickey Mouse, among other Disney favorites, such as “Silly Symphony”. The barn, which was recently rebuilt, is where Walt spent hours sketching out cartoon characters and storyboards. It was a very formative place for him, and its impact permeated his lifetime of work.

The Wolf River trees are expected to bear fruit in three to four years, and will help to support the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. In the coming years, the apples should ripen around the time of Marceline’s annual “Toonfest” event.

As Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Photo at top: Matt Bollinger, Stark Bro’s IT Manager, left, with Kaye Malins, executive director of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. Matt and Kaye are standing in front of Walt Disney’s childhood home, where Kaye resides. Photos: Stark Bro’s

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P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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