Two orchards can be found at our Common Ground Education Center, which fairgoers approach almost immediately after entering the grounds from either the Rose (north) or Pine (south) Gates. The North Orchard, located on the north end of the grounds, is planted with apple varieties that have their origins in the state of Maine. The South Orchard contains a mixture of tree species – apples, plums, pears, cherries and a lone peach – and is typical of a small farm or home orchard. Both orchards are interplanted with garden beds that run between the rows of trees, which are used for educational demonstrations and market gardening. The orchards are an important part of our educational programming and are used for teaching pruning, grafting and organic orchard care.
The Maine Heritage Orchard
John Bunker of FEDCO Trees and other dedicated fruit explorers search the State, looking for old apple varieties that originated in Maine. This orchard is intended to be a repository for these unique varieties, exemplifying the wide diversity of different apples not found on grocery store shelves. Maine Heritage Orchard trees are currenty planted in the North Orchard. All the trees are grafted onto Antanovka rootstock, a hardy standard rootstock of Russian origin, to ensure well-anchored, free-standing and long-lived trees. Some of the Maine apples planted in the North Orchard include Black Oxford, Fletcher Sweet, Winthrop Greening, and Briggs Auburn. (In the right pane on this page, see the complete list of apple varieties in the North Orchard.) A greatly expanded Maine Heritage Orchard is now under construction at the site of a former gravel pit on MOFGA's grounds.
The Scion Exchange, where dedicated tree fruit growers meet to exchange scionwood from different varieties, takes place each March at the Common Ground Education Center. Eventually, the trees from MOFGA's orchards will be a major source of scionwood for people to use for grafting.
The South Orchard
This orchard showcases options for homeowners and small orchardists with its focus on diversity within the orchard. It contains a range of rootstocks (dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard), varieties (scab-resistant, heirloom), and species (apple, plum, pear, cherry, peach). Since 1999, MOFGA's volunteers and Journeypersons have interplanted crops among the orchard trees. Because it began with extremely sandy soils and very little organic matter, the orchard has had significant amounts of compost and other soil amendments added over time. Jack Kertesz worked tirelessly in the South Orchard, conducting a three-year SARE project, Improving Financial Returns Early in an Orchard's Life by Alleycropping. Among the intercrops still growing are Japanese fantail willows, which have proven to be both beautiful and a major host of beneficial insects. Walk through the orchard to see the botanical diversity growing within a young orchard that's just starting to bear fruit.