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Heritage Apples Making A Comeback
Heritage apples are on the way back thanks to the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE). Although SSE and its members have been swapping and sharing seeds for 40 years, this is the first year SSE has sold apple trees using grafts from select trees. Eventually grafts will be available from around 1,000 trees in the SSE Heritage Orchard.
  “We shipped 294 trees that were grafted for sale this year and took orders for 1,376 custom-grafted trees that will be shipped by March 2016,” says Dan Bussey, orchard manager. “Together, they represent 45 varieties shipped to hundreds of SSE members and others in 46 states.”
  SSE is a 700-member organization that preserves and promotes heritage vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs and grains, a heritage cattle breed and now apples. Each winter members receive a new listing of varieties available from other members and the SSE farm. This past year SSE offered scion wood for grafting from 117 varieties in the annual member Seed Exchange.
  “As trees mature, we will be able to offer more,” says Bussey.
  SSE members offered another 522 varieties, with 185 offered by one member, Nick Botner of Yoncalla, Ore. (see FARM SHOW’S Vol. 35, No. 2). Botner is internationally renowned for the largest collection of apple varieties in the world.
  Unlike scion wood, which is ordered prior to grafting by the recipient, custom grafted trees must be ordered a year in advance. Bussey plans to offer approximately 20 varieties for 2017 versus the 40 varieties offered for 2016. The 2016 SSE catalog will carry pre-grafted trees produced from 6 old varieties in the SSE.
  Bussey hopes the 1,000 varieties now in the orchard or its nursery is just the start as SSE finds new “old” varieties to add. He is all too aware of how quickly old varieties are disappearing.
  He tells of hearing about a regional favorite called Yahnke that was thought to have died out. Bussey found a tree in northeast Iowa and took scion wood with the owner’s permission. When he returned a year later, the tree and others in the old orchard had been torn out.
  “We are always looking for old varieties, especially if they originated in the upper Midwest,” says Bussey. “Let us know if you have an old tree. We would love to hear about it. We may take scion wood from it or know someone who would.”
  Memberships in SSE start at $30, but anyone can order the 2016 catalog.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup,
Seed Savers Exchange, 3094 North Winn Rd., Decorah, Iowa 52101 (ph 563 382-5990; www.seedsavers.org).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #5