By our latest, still-evolving count, we are making around 400 varieties of fruit varieties freely available at the 2016 Lane County Propagation Fair. A vast array, yes, even as our count is down on previous years. Why the reduction in numbers? A very deliberate strategy, as it happens. We have been assiduously condensing our collecting efforts in recent years – from a focus on ‘diversity for diversity’s sake’, toward a highly-targeted emphasis on exceptional characteristics in locally-proven, disease-resistant varieties.
Many of the varieties we will have at the fair are rare or completely unknown to the trade and compare exceedingly favorably with the latest modern cultivars. For example, our team rates ‘Akane’ – a modern apple variety very-popularly touted by commercial nurseries for its disease-resistance, most commonly along with ‘Liberty’ and ‘Chehalis’ – as a second- rather than first-tier disease-resistant apple, because it tends to suffer during the first part of the season where scores of ‘unknown’ disease-resistant apples we have compared against it, organically in the PNW, do not. Old timers consistently tell us that disease-resistance is the defining, but not only characteristic, determining great fruit.
How do we determine our favorites? We have been busy decoding the long-term ecology of some huge, genetically-diverse collections – such as Nick Botner’s in Yoncalla, and the USDA repository in Corvallis – which afford us deep comparative insights into the relative performance of about 6,000 varieties of fruit trees. Ready, local access to such diversity, distinctively global, affords us an extraordinary ability – wholly unique on the international stage – to identify and collect superb examples of organic, high-performing cultivars from among a dizzying array of fruit types and characteristics.
For example, even as dark-red-fleshed apple varieties are not uncommon among fruit enthusiasts globally, we are confident we provide access to the finest all-round, dark-red-fleshed apple varieties available Stateside. These world-class, non-trade cultivars remain, for the most part, entirely unrecognized outside our immediate circle.
Many of the varieties we offer are American heirlooms; many are named, foreign cultivars unavailable anywhere else in the country; many are recent releases out of modern U.S. breeding programs, hiding behind a number rather than name. Which of these cultivars have what it takes to become established as bio-regional mainstays in the years ahead? Which are ‘future heirlooms’ in the making? How might your choices play a role shaping the evolution of our local food system?
This year we are making available around 150 fine-tasting, handsome, disease-resistant apples – demonstrating a broad array of maturities and other qualities – along with an abundance of highly-targeted selections of other fruit types.
Though the USDA Pear Repository’s 2016 quarantine on scion-distribution massively restricted national grassroots access to global pear diversity this year, we were still able to secure access to around 100 varieties through our local, grassroots network.
We are especially strong in targeted grape selections this year. Some of us who regularly move among many thousands of varieties of different fruit types aver that there perhaps exists far greater, all-round depth in top-tier grape cultivars, than in any other fruit type. Grape vines are exceptionally easy to propagate and, once they quickly become established, are extraordinarily resilient plants.
The fair is free and entirely participant-driven. We have no vendors. We sell no fruit trees, and all scion and seed – hundreds of varieties – are free. We charge a nominal fee of $3 per rootstock should you wish to graft trees or have trees grafted for you. You don’t need to bring anything to the scion exchange/seed-swap to participate in it.
Here are our working lists of fruit varieties available at this year’s fair. Listings and descriptions for pears, plums, cherries and peaches are complete as of March 18th, 2016. Apple and grape listings are complete, though varietal descriptions are still being updated:
Here, a listing of all varieties of all fruit types from 2014 and 2015 prop fairs in one spreadsheet.
Many social and ecological factors shape our ability to collect material for the fair. Fruit trees come into our embrace, and then sometimes fall away. We never know, from year to year, whether we will see an exceptional variety again.
Doors open at 11.00 a.m. The early bird catches the scion.