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- Wes Jackson
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Contribute to MOFGA’s Fruitful Future!

The Maine Heritage Orchard is a ten-acre preservation orchard on the MOFGA grounds in Unity. Unlike any other orchard in the state, it will be home to over 500 different apple and pear varieties traditionally grown in Maine. We planted the first 100 trees in April of 2014 and will plant about 100 more each spring until we reach our goal. The varieties included in the collection date back to a time when most Mainers lived on farms and every farm had a small orchard of locally adapted selections. Many of these varieties are now on the verge of extinction.
 
The Maine Heritage Orchard is under the direction of MOFGA’s John Bunker, a nationally recognized expert in historic fruit. With the help of other agricultural historians, numerous "old timers" and hundreds of apple enthusiasts from around the state, John has assembled a unique collection of heritage fruit over the past thirty years. In an ongoing, state-wide treasure hunt for Maine’s ancient fruit trees, well over two hundred varieties have been identified and saved.
 
As the trees mature, fruit and grafting scions will be available for generations to come. Historical and cultural information on each variety will be widely accessible for the first time in over a century. The orchard is managed using innovative, organic orchard practices. It is planted on a terraced reclaimed gravel pit. Beds of beneficial perennial plants are interspersed with the trees. It is a learning laboratory that will be a model for backyard growers, orchardists, and agricultural educators.

There are numerous ways to get involved with the Maine Heritage Orchard. Volunteer work days are held throughout the growing season. Stayed tuned to the MOFGA website for dates or contact us at apples@mofga.org.


Happy New Year from the Maine Heritage Orchard!


Now that winter is here, you've undoubtedly been perusing every seed and nursery catalog you can get your hands on, eager to plan for that time when the ground has thawed. Have you considered planting an heirloom apple tree? One unique way to add to your garden, orchard, farm, or backyard is by purchasing a tree from the Maine Heritage Orchard stewardship program. The stewardship program was devised to make “back-ups” available of all the rare varieties in the Heritage Orchard. You buy one or several trees and then fill out a form letting us know where you planted it (anywhere you'd like). If something happens to our Heritage Orchard specimen, we can call you for the backup grafting wood necessary to propagate new trees.

Become a steward and help put Maine's heirloom apples back into Maine's communities! We don’t want the Heritage Orchard to be a museum. We want it to be a vehicle for repopulating Maine with a wide diversity of classic fruit. We’re offering these apple trees through the Fedco Trees catalog this year. Sixty percent of the purchase price of each tree helps fund the Maine Heritage Orchard. For more information on the stewardship program, see page 19 of the 2015 Fedco Trees catalog or visit http://www.fedcoseeds.com/trees/.


The Maine Heritage Orchard 2014 – Our first Year in the Ground

 

In April, we planted the first 100 apple trees in the Heritage Orchard. Volunteers of all ages put on their work boots and dug some holes. A view of the terraces on planting day.
Our perennial companion plantings (foreground) flourished in late summer. In September, we laid jute netting over a cover crop seeding to renovate the next section of the gravel pit site.
Apprentices Laura and Natalie continued the search for old apples in Maine.

 

Thank you for your help in making the Heritage Orchard a reality!


Conservation Farm of the Year

We are delighted to announce that the Waldo Soil and Water Conservation District has made MOFGA the Conservation Farm of the Year for its work on the Maine Heritage Orchard. Our first season growing trees and perennial plants on the property is now successfully behind us. For decades, the Heritage Orchard site was subject to gravel mining. A steep and sandy basin of nutrient-depleted land was all that was left when we acquired the property. Gravel mining removes all of the flora, topsoil, and the subsoil gravel from an area. The place was practically barren of vegetation when we got it. A lot of work went into transforming the steep slopes of the gravel pit into a network of terraces before it was even possible to plant trees that could thrive there. MOFGA has since been investigating ways to re-build the soil and create a place that can sustain agriculture and wildlife once again. Next Spring we will plant another 80 heirloom fruit trees as well as many more perennial plants. These perennials are beneficial to the trees, soil-building efforts, and in attracting bees and other insects to the orchard. We hope the Maine Heritage Orchard will be a model for other agricultural and land conservation efforts. And we hope this recognition will motivate others to get involved in preserving heirloom apples and in bringing this place back to life.


    

 Developing the New Site

 
The most recent photos of the new orchard site appear at the top.
October 6, 2013 - Orchard Fall Soil Preparation Workshop and Volunteer Work Day. More than 30 volunteers helped John Bunker and others prepare planting areas for the orchard. They placed compost and soil amendments at each future planting site, rolled out hay mulch, staked each site and then enjoyed a lunch prepared in the MOFGA kitchen. Thanks, volunteers! And John Bunker, C.J. Walke and Jack Kertesz. Standard size trees will be planted in the prepared areas next spring.

Here's the recipe for soil amendments:
2 wheelbarrows of compost

2 qts. rock phosphate

2 qts. granular azomite

2 qts. greensand

1-1/2 qts. menafee humates
1 qt. blood meal

1 qt. kelp

3/4 qt. bone char



The terraces feature swales (trenches) dug into the back edge. These are filled with wood chips. The swales catch the water. The chips soak up the water and act like a sponge, releasing the water slowly into the terrace growing beds.

Machines created the terraces

On August 13,
volunteers gathered to
mark out the orchard terraces

The work of renovating the gravel pit began in August 2013

The gravel pit
before renovation began

 


    

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