by Leanne Loy
Luke Miller of St. Joseph is not only a respected teacher at the Sartell Riverview Intermediate School but is also owner and operator of Quicky Trees LLC, a tree farm on the outskirts of St. Joseph.
Driving down the hilly dirt road that leads to his farm, one is graced with a path that feels like driving underneath nature’s canopy. The first thing one might notice is the rows upon rows of fruit-bearing trees that invite you to walk among them, 10 acres to be exact, with room to grow.
There wasn’t always this much room. The tree farm started 12 years ago at his place in Sauk Rapids until they outgrew that space. Back then he called it his “tree garden.” Miller, his wife and three kids moved out to St. Joseph permanently about two years ago after having purchased the 60 acres of land a few years before that.
Miller’s knowledge of growing, harvesting and grafting trees is apparent as he talks about how his interest started back in high school, but as a teacher at Sartell’s intermediate school, it’s obvious his knowledge doesn’t end there.
Miller is a robotics-competition team coach for the nearly 40 students who create and compete with their robots each year, as well as an automation robotics teacher for eighth-graders, in which they learn about programming, coding and mechanics.
Some of his students from Sartell come out to Quicky Trees LLC in the summer to help around the farm as their summer jobs.
“They learn a lot from just being out here two to three days a week,” he said. “It teaches them how to grow something and could maybe even spark an interest for them later on in life.”
The students help with watering, planting and even weeding the trees.
“This opens their eyes to a whole new world,” Miller said.
Lessons in the classroom can be demonstrated in nature, a passion that shows strongly in Miller’s convictions.
Miller is a natural teacher. Whether he’s talking about robotics or explaining the grafting process he uses on his farm, it’s easy to see that teaching is just part of who he is. He cares about what his students are learning not only in the classroom but out in the orchard as well.
“I think everyone should have a garden,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
It’s important to Miller that people learn how to sustain food for themselves but also have the experience of producing something with their own hands.
But his plans don’t stop with just the four to five students who come out to work with him each summer.
“My next push is to hopefully get something at the schools, even if I have to donate a bunch of trees to help get something set up,” he said. “We have a hillside there by Riverview so it would be great for those kids to start growing trees on their own.”
Miller envisions possibly a green house in the future where the junior-high students can plant, water and enjoy what their hard work produces.
His success hasn’t always been easy.
“I failed a lot before I was successful,” Miller admits.
He spent countless hours reading and researching his craft and it’s paid off. But that’s not to say that there haven’t been struggles along the way. To Miller, though, that’s what hard work is all about. There are many plans for his future as his business continues to grow. He will add a “you pick orchard” in the next couple of years as well as making this his full-time gig sometime down the road.
Any student of Miller’s is lucky to have him, whether in the classroom or out on a farm. He sees the importance for all types of education, not just the academic kind. In a world where people don’t often see the value of hard-labor jobs, Miller is bringing this ideal back to our kids, one tree at a time.