Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



COURTESY OF THE TEMPERATE ORCHARD CONSERVANCY  - The ground has been tilled and rows laid out at the Temperate Orchard Conservancy just outside Molalla, where grafted baby apple trees were planted in a nursery  before being transplanted to their permanent location this winter. Apple enthusiasts and history buffs might know that Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple was the Esopus Spitzenburg, which he grew on his plantation from 1768 to 1814. But shoppers won’t find the Esopus Spitzenburg at their local Safeway or Fred Meyer, which sell the usual suspects like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and McIntosh. It turns out there are thousands of other varieties that go untasted by all but apple nerds, who enjoy the thrill of hunting down these heirloom delicacies.

Joanie Cooper, president of the Temperate Orchard Conservancy, is working to preserve the Esopus Spitzenburg and other heirloom varieties so they don’t disappear. She bought a 40-acre farm outside Molalla in 2013, where the nonprofit conservancy is now diligently cloning 4,500 apple varieties collected by fellow enthusiast Nick Botner.

Botner amassed the largest private collection of apple trees in the United States on his property in Douglas County. But as he approached his 90th birthday, Botner put his farm up for sale. He gave the orchard conservancy permission to clone his massive collection so that the rare varieties grown on his farm aren’t lost.

Although the word “cloning” might sound scary to some, Cooper assures that it’s natural. Also called grafting, it’s been done since Roman times.

“You’re taking a scion, a cutting from a tree, a little twig, and you’re grafting it to a rootstock (the roots on the tree). You’re making this little twig grow into this rootstock. Most all trees you see are grafted,” Cooper says. “If you went to Safeway, you couldn’t purchase a Honeycrisp apple, plant the seeds and come up with the apple you just ate.”

In that scenario, a standard tree would sprout and “it could be anything,” she says. “Most of the time when you plant seeds you get a seedling. Maybe one in 1,000 will have a good apple. That’s why it’s necessary to graft, to save these old varieties."

These older apple varieties came to the United States from Europe and other countries several decades or even centuries ago. As time went on, it made more sense for farmers to grow only a few types of apples and sell them in bulk to grocers. Less-popular varieties, including those that aren’t so shiny or are odd-colored, started to disappear.

“A lot of apples I like are russet ones — that means they’re not shiny red,” Cooper says. “They have golden or brown russet over the fruit.”

Aside from the thrill an enthusiast gets hunting down an old apple variety that’s been around since the 1600s, there’s a stronger call to action for their preservation.

COURTESY OF THE TEMPERATE ORCHARD CONSERVANCY  - An 8-foot fence stands on the farm, a necessity to keep out deer who like to eat off the fruit trees. “If you don’t have a very large base for selecting the different characteristics of any product — whether it’s an apple tree, pear tree, bean or a carrot … if your genetic base is so narrow, if a disease develops or some kind of disaster occurs, then you’re in real trouble,” Cooper says. “You have no way of perpetuating that kind of product.”

Cooper likes to remind people of the Irish potato famine from 1845 to 1852. The Irish were dependent on the potato, which became afflicted with a disease called potato blight. A million people died during the famine.

“The reason so many people died when they got the blight on the potatoes was because they only grew one kind of potato,” Cooper says.

“They had nothing to fall back on,” she says. “When you have a monoculture, it can be dangerous. You need diversity in all fruits and vegetables.”

Once the conservancy finishes cloning Botner’s apple collection, it will copy his grapes, cherries, plums and peaches.

The nonprofit will sell scions from the Botner collection so the public may grow and experience the taste of these old varieties themselves, and they also will offer custom grafts of trees.

Later, the conservancy hopes to open a lab for DNA testing of fruits that would be open to the public.

“There’s a lot of people interested in determining old varieties (of fruit),” Cooper says.

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COURTESY OF THE TEMPERATE ORCHARD CONSERVANCY  - The three founders of the Temperate Orchard Conservancy, left to right, are Joanie Cooper, Shaun Shepherd and Franki Baccellieri.

Apple facts

• 2,500 apple varieties are grown in the United States

• 100 varieties are grown commercially

• 7,500 varieties are grown throughout the world


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