Preparing for the 2014 propagation fair!

Five years ago, a handful of local fruit enthusiasts decided to morph our modest local Spring Seed Swap into an all-encompassing propagation fair. Those grassroots aspirations have now matured to the point where our annual propagation fair makes a palpable difference to fruit culture in our bioregion. We now, for example, offer considerably more diversity in bioregionally-proven, disease-resistant varieties of the major fruit groups, than all Oregon commercial nurseries combined. In 2013, fair attendance ran at about 1,500 attendees. Not bad for a free, 100% volunteer-driven event, eh? Here’s a quick picture of our fair-preparation efforts this season.

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Ritual! The annual cleaning of hundreds of scion pots for the prop fair. Revoutionary camaraderie in the glorious sunshine with Maggie Manitoba of Healing Harvest, Karen Moore, Geran Wales and Ben Riley.

What will we have freely on offer? Among others, grapes. About 135 varieties! Most cultivars, we find, are vigorous, tough customers, resistant to disease, very productive, drought-tolerant, handle weed-pressure well, are easy-to-grow, and easy-peasy to propagate. The diversity available to us includes a dizzying array of ecstatic flavors.

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Grapes gathered for our fall fruit show. Diversitas!

In our bioregion, as we have moved among about 500 or so different varieties through the years, we have noted an uncommon number of grape varieties come in tops in every performance category under organic conditions. In our experience, this makes grapes something of a standout relative to other fruit types which do indeed have have their star-performers – high-performing plants and fruit – but in no where the numbers that grape varieties offer themselves up.

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Gathering grape scion at Spearheart Farm in Yoncalla.

A key focus of ours in recent years has been selecting the finest disease-resistant, superb-tasting, highly productive seedless grape varieties to bring to our prop fair. In this regard, we sense our fair leads the bioregion. Our OG selection protocol remains a defining emphasis among our grape scion selection.

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We have also broadened our embrace this year, adding grapes we haven’t carried before and which will double our typical count. The vast majority are Class A performers, though in making a nod to populist appeal, we have admittedly included a small handful – such as the Pinot Noir, perhaps you spray – which don’t thrive under organic conditions, where we do have wine grapes which are highly disease resistant (and which reliably produce sugar early), and which we will be making available this year as usual.

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Collecting scion at the USDA in Corvallis with JJ, Pete and Ja.

Any idea what fresh local pears in very early July can taste like? We do. Yum. As it happens, the USDA’s pear genebank in Corvallis, an hour to our north, is home to the most diverse collection of pear cultivars on earth. And only the teensiest handful of the 1,000 named varieties it holds are being grown elsewhere upon US shores. Why is that? Well, primarily because the Corvallis pears (super-early-maturers among ‘em) typically lack big biz appeal (their fruits are too fragile, different or fast-maturing, for example) to meet the demands of an industrial food system which has, rather, settled in upon a pear-culture model in which one variety, Bartlett, accounts for the majority of pears grown. Bartlett, Anjou and Bosc account for 94% of all pears grown the in US. No other food crop has witnessed such catastrophic loss of varietal diversity.

Surprising perhaps, but while the remit of the USDA scientists at the Corvallis repository is to assemble an unparalleled diversity of Pyrus germplasm from around the globe, their formal role does not include actively identifying and promoting cultivars worthy of ‘release’. That responsibility, wouldn’t ya know, belongs to, hmm, well, the likes of grassroots fruit enthusiasts such as us. Ain’t no other cavalry on the horizon riding in to free those pears, folks. And so, unnoticed, a small cabal of pear geeks have been walking and examining and tasting the Corvallis pear ocean through the years. Tough work. Someone’s gotta do it!

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Asian pear scion ready for processing.

We support and work closely with the Home Orchard Society in Portland, collecting hundreds of varieties of different fruit types to put into their spring fair. They return the favor handsomely, with advice and support. Here is a vast array of high quality Asian pear scion cut for us by George Barton, the Home Orchard Society’s Asian pear guru. Anecdotal evidence repeatedly confirms Asian pears are the most productive fruit trees in the PNW, and the Lane County Propagation Fair makes a point of offering up an unparalleled array of proven cultivars, rootstock diversity, and clear, concise, definitive descriptions of the material to hand.

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Apples are what peeps want. Here we join the Home Orchard Society’s Shaun Shepherd, a dear friend and a fruit enthusiast recognized nationwide as one of our foremost apple ID and cider experts, cutting scion over a weekend of pouring rain at Nick Botner’s repository in Douglas County. We end the day as drowned rats, Calvados-warmed. Fruit culture!

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Not all who wander are lost. Ben and Nick stumble across the Holy Grail of fruit explorers, the apple actually named, “Goof.”

‘Fruit enthusiasts’ we may be, but we also hang with the pros. Basking here in the tutorial brilliance of SLO Farm’s Tom Murray teaching us a vertical axis training system for a new orchard establishment. Where were we? Cutting scion off each tree pruned.

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Then, we get to share intel with old timers from far afield!

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Hobnobbing with Harry Burton of the legendary Salt Spring Island Apple Show, in from BC for the Home Orchard Society scion fair. International fruit geekout!

Back to cutting…
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and processing, and cataloging our scion.

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and placing it in the cooler of our local food bank, Food For Lane County, a sponsor of our event. Yup, we are an inter-agency effort!

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Our propagation fair includes a seed swap. Last year, around 1,500 peeps attended our event.

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We move among public domain plant stewards as well as orchardists. Here we are in February hanging with key peeps from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Adaptive Seeds, Commonwealth Seeds, Moloka’i and Springfield.

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And, of course, all our industriousness pays off when we get to taste the fruits of our labors.

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50 apples selected for taste from 4,000 varieties in late September. And 50 grapes selected from 500 varieties. Yum!

Hope to see you at our event. It’s free and fun, and you’ll find a dizzying array of material to hand. Please check out our varietal lists from the links at the head of this page.

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About the 2013 Propagation Fair

The 2013 Annual Spring Propagation Fair is a free event, open to the public, and is designed to support home orchardists, vegetable gardeners and native plant enthusiasts in and around the S. Willamette Valley.

We are focusing on a genetically diverse array of apples, pears and grapes that have proven adaptability to our growing region, disease resistance, and have unique characteristics for culinary use, storage, etc.

Hundreds of varieties of scions (fruit-tree cuttings) and vegetable seed, will be shared by local fruit enthusiasts and seed-savers at the Fair. Rootstocks and grafting assistance will be available for a
nominal fee.

Bring your own labeled cuttings and divisions of figs, grapes, berries and other fruits to share freely with others at the Fair, along with fresh seed, plants and divisions of all types of food crops and native plants.

Ask questions of experienced local gardeners and a broad array of our bioregion’s foremost gardening education non-profits. Hear expert speakers throughout the day.

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Lane County Master Gardener Workshops of Interest

Feb. 23, 2013 10:00am – 12:00pm
Learn the basics of pruning blueberries, grapes and fruit trees.
Feb. 23, 2013 1:00pm – 3:30pm
Learn to grow great fruit trees in your home garden.
Feb. 26, 2013 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Learn the basics of fruit tree pruning and get some hands-on experience.
Feb. 26, 2013 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Learn to grow great fruit trees in your home garden.
Mar. 2, 2013
9:30 am – 12:00 pm  |  River Road Park Community Center  |  $25
Mar. 5, 2013
Mar. 7, 2013

Growing Great Fruit Trees at Home
1:00 pm – 3:30 pm  |  Lane Community College – Florence  |  $25

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Post-2012 Fair report

The fair passed off swimmingly with about 700-1000 attendees. Our grafting table, seven-to-eight strong, was non-stop busy as fair goers brought their rootstock and scion to our team to match up. The seed exchange was busier than ever this year, with the good folks of Adaptive Seed, as usual, holding the space together. In our post-event assessment at Cosmic Pizza this past Tuesday night, the organizing team all agreed that working with one another was a delight and that we intend to come together again next spring to do it again! We are also planning fruity adventures throughout the course of this summer to visit many of the trees we collected scion from – it will be good to put a colorful and flavorful face to the hundreds of varietal names we have so assiduously tracked and collected scion for since January.

As we decompress from the months-long effort of gathering scion from around our bioregion, and preparing for the event, a pressing priority is getting leftover rootstock grafted and into the ground. We have three grafting workshops/parties scheduled at the Maple Drive Community Greenhouse at 1137 Maple Dr. Directions below.

Tuesday April 3: noon

Wednesday April 4: 10.00 a.m.

Saturday April 7: 10.00 a.m.

Directions: bike path provides direct access to Horn. By car, about a mile north on River Road – 3 or 4 lights after Chambers bridge (after you pass the Goodwill store on the right) – you will reach the Horn turn-off on the left. Bizarrely, the road to the right at that intersection is named Arbor, not Horn, and Arbor is the only intersection road sign you can see as you approach from the south. Nonetheless, turn left onto Horn rather than right onto Arbor. Going left (west) about the equivalent of 2-3 blocks in (there is, I think, but one cross-street on that stretch) you will see Maple on the left. Go left on Maple (south) and two to three driveways on the left you will clearly see the entrance to the large, grassy 5-acre property with big trees.

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Wassail!

The biggest organic orchards (hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of apple and pear trees each year) being planted in western Oregon just now are being planted by the cider-perry grassroots, many of them first-time farmers. Corvallis has an Under-50 Cider – one of two Oregon ciders, I believe, advertised as sourced from within 50 miles. Cider? The BushWhacker Cider bar is one of the more outrageously hopping bars in SE Portland on a Friday night.

My biggest observation relating to the Future of Fruit in the years I have supported the Portland Spring Propagation Fairs? It came this past weekend as I witnessed that the attendance of young people at the event has simply exploded. This has much to do with fresh blood in the supply line. The quality of young soul I am meeting around vegetable and fruit propagation tables just now is exceptional.

At the greyer handlebar moustache end of the scale, come meet Shaun Shepherd of the Home Orchard Society at this weekend’s Lane Prop Fair. Shaun, a ciderist, is the Portland-based Authority on Cider. A little shy (we can’t get him to speak in public) a good time to speak with him is when he is grafting your tree at the grafting table.

Cheers!

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Fair update

Somewhat unexpectedly, we will have persimmon rootstock available at the propagation fair this weekend. (Diospyros lotus, which we use as persimmon rootstock is, by the by, one candidate for the ‘lotus tree’ mentioned in The Odyssey. It was so delicious that those who ate it forgot about returning home and wanted to stay and eat lotus with the lotus-eaters. Better, methinks, to bring the lotus home.)

Although we haven’t collected persimmon scion so far, we are fortunate in that persimmon is one of the last trees to bud out. Where we are pushed to collect most fruit scion in December and January while the budwood is still dormant, our persimmon-scion collection-window is still open. We are on target to collect an unnamed variety somewhere along Alder tomorrow morning but, if you have a named persimmon fruit tree in your yard, please consider collecting scion to bring it to the fair to share this Saturday. One or two sticks will do. I’ve attached details below on scion-collection protocol.

Please also bring fig cuttings as you are able. They are very, very popular and cuttings tend to fly out the door. Named varieties, labelled, are preferred. Raspberry and other divisions are also very popular. Again, if you know the cultivar name, please label where appropriate. But don’t let lack of a name stop you bringing proven-performers to the fair to share. Please label with as much info as you know. (Fall raspberries…ever-bearing strawberries…native…and so forth.) And of course, please bring seed to our free seed exchange. You are also, welcome to come along completely empty-handed.

We have been very actively chasing down and collecting fruit material for several months, now. This year, across the board, we have made a very deliberate effort not to ‘go for numbers’ but to intensively target well-proven PNW performers. A great many of these varieties are not known outside PNW fruit-ubergeek inner circles. Indeed, efforts by fruit enthusiasts in recent years to ‘decode the comparative ecology’ of some massive but little-examined PNW fruit collections have clearly revealed to us ‘unknowns’ which startlingly outperform the varieties, for example, commonly promoted by the trade as particularly well-suited to organic regimens, across all major fruit types.

Old timers will affirm that disease-resistance is not the only but the dominant trait determining how well great fruit performs in the PNW. Those of us alert to disease trends in PNW fruit anticipate certain diseases will pick-up in forthcoming years, including those which kill trees. We are quietly confident this weekend’s Prop fair is making available the most diverse selection of high-performing, disease-resistant material yet assembled in the PNW – ‘where disease-resistant trees meet great fruit.’

Although we are strong in all major fruit types, we are particularly pleased with our seedless and seeded grapes this year. Grape cuttings are extremely easy to propagate – essentially, you stick ‘em in the ground and stand back.

We will also be using this fair to introduce some entirely new fruit ‘classes’ to American audiences, in diverse quantity – June and July bearing pears, for example, largely out of eastern europe, but proven in the USDA’s pear repository in Corvallis.

We are also particularly strong in Asian pears and detailed descriptions to accompany them. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that Asian pears consistently outyield all other fruit trees in the PNW. This year we are rich in locally proven material from China, Japan and Korea. Some of the thirty or so varieties we will be offering are thousands of years old – which naturally implies a hardwon degree of ecological resilience.

Best bring your reading glasses to the fair. You will want to browse the descriptions – an absolutely crucial element  of what is on offer there – and which will allow you to make sense of the vast array of material on offer across all types and classes of fruit – red-fleshed, cider, perry, oregonian, disease-resistant, keeping, high-yielding, large, early, pretty, etc. – including some just-made-available assessments from PNW old timers of ‘my favorite varieties.’ Also bring sharpies and masking tape to label scion, and a container to put scion and cuttings and so forth into. There will, of course, be rootstock and grafters at the fair to make trees for you if you don’t want to do it yourself. We have a diverse array of superb rootstock in especially impressive condition, this year. There will be explanations and help at the fair allowing you to make appropriate rootstock choices.

The prop fair is, fundamentally, a local community event, entirely participant-driven. Free to all comers, all the material we offer at it is freely shared (though we charge a very small fee to cover the cost of rootstocks should you want them). Our small organizing team has been holding firm so far. But,  not surprisingly, our need for volunteers is picking up very markedly this week. We have a small workparty tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10.00 a.m. just offa Coburg Road. And then a need for all-hands-on-deck on Friday afternoon for set-up in the LCC cafeteria, and throughout the day on Saturday. If you can devote time to a short shift, please drop a line on our volunteer co-ordinator, Jamina Schupack  (jaminashupack at gmail dot com) and let us know you are coming.

Volunteering around the prop fair is a great way to learn about the fruity potential in your life and a little of your support will go a long way.
Collecting persimmon scion.

Preferably, cut scion a little less than the diameter of a lead pencil, or smaller, to match up with our rootstock this year. Cut to 12” lengths, although shorter pieces are perfectly fine. Tightly tie or rubber-band your cuttings in a clearly-labeled bundle we can put into a ‘yoghurt’ container, bundled so that all pieces can ‘drink’ from the moisture in the bottom.

Vigorous shoots are best but avoid collecting from suckers or water-sprouts (these shoots, which grow vertically from the base of the tree or vertically from lateral branches, are slowest to bear fruit). Collect first-year wood (last year’s growth) preferably from laterals. Next-favored are the terminal shoots at the top of the tree. In this particular instance, seek wood on the tree which shows less bud-break – often on the northern side of the tree.


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About:

The 2012 Annual Spring Propagation Fair is a free event, open to the public, and is designed to support home orchardists, vegetable gardeners and native plant enthusiasts in and around the S. Willamette Valley.

We are focusing on a genetically diverse array of apples, pears and grapes that have proven adaptability to our growing region, disease resistance, and have unique characteristics for culinary use, storage, etc.

Flyer for 2012 Propagation Fair

Hundreds of varieties of scions (fruit-tree cuttings) and vegetable seed, will be shared by local fruit enthusiasts and seed-savers at the Fair. Rootstocks and grafting assistance will be available for a
nominal fee.

Bring your own labeled cuttings and divisions of figs, grapes, berries and other fruits to share freely with others at the Fair, along with fresh seed, plants and divisions of all types of food crops and native
plants.

Ask questions of experienced local gardeners and a broad array of our bioregion’s foremost gardening education non-profits. Hear expert speakers throughout the day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized