The Minnetonka Fruit Growers Association was one of the earliest co-ops in this area. It was organized in 1890. Long Lake was headquarters at first, and apples as well as berries were sold. Then as the market grew, both Long Lake and Maple Plain were shipping points. Later the office was moved to Maple Plain and fruit was shipped from this point only. The Great Northern depot in Maple Plain had a large roofed platform where farmers brought in and stacked the 24-quart strawberry crates, followed in a few weeks by the 24-pint raspberry crates, and the season tapered off with blackberries, currants and gooseberries. The west bound trains, the No. 21 at 6 :00 p.m. and the No. 9 at 8 :40, came in and loaded fruit ordered for towns in the Red River Valley, western Minnesota, and Iowa. Warm and uncomfortable people in the red plush seats of the passenger cars waited while the berries were loaded. The fruit being more perishable than the people.
The larger growers hired as many as one hundred berry pickers a day, pickers at times being paid one cent per quart for their work. Whole families from Minneapolis would come out for the berry season, living in tents or in the farmers' barns or sheds, and pick berries; glad of a chance to be out in the country. Berry picking was also the ordinary way for local youngsters, women and some men to earn money.
The berry business began diminishing after the first World War. Labor shortage, shrinking markets because of better transportation, and plant diseases all contributed. Varieties of berries grown changed; the Bederwood variety, named after the community later called Stubbs Bay was succeeded by the redder colored Senator Dunlap. Premier and Beaver varieties followed. Berries were picked every day but Saturday, there being no Sunday market. Farmers hauled the filled crates into town with team and wagons; later with cars and trucks, and loaded them onto the train platforms. As many as three thousand crates a day for a week were shipped out. Peak value was $75,000 for the season.
The business shrank until hiring a manager was no longer practical. The co-op directors finally sold their building (now Hankinson's Antique Shop) and office equipment and supplies. The funds were held in the bank for some years. A fair distribution of the money to former members seemed impossible, so the directors finally voted to give the money to the Orono School District for scholarships.