David Benscoter is a retired federal law enforcement agent. I spent six years as an FBI special agent and 18 years as an IRS criminal investigator. In 2012, I started getting interested in antique apples when I pruned the 100 year old orchard of a friend just north of Spokane, Washington. As I tried to identify the apple trees in her orchard I learned that eastern Washington has a rich but nearly little known apple growing history. The state of Washington is famous for growing apples but those orchards are mostly irrigated orchards along the Columbia River and its tributaries in the central part of the state.
I began researching the history of apple growing in eastern Washington in 2013 and I soon learned that apples now considered extinct were grown in eastern Washington and northern Idaho in the early 1900’s. I began searching for extinct or lost apple varieties in Whitman County, Washington. Joanie Cooper and Shaun Shepherd, two gifted apple identification experts who live in Oregon, agreed to evaluate the apples I sent them. Joanie and Shaun are also known for establishing The Temperate Orchard Conservancy, a place where fruit trees in danger of extinction can find safety and be preserved forever. I later partnered with the Whitman County Historical Society and started The Lost Apple Project.
In 2014 my search turned up a formerly extinct apple, the Nero. In 2016, two other once lost apples were rediscovered in Whitman County, the Dickinson and the Arkansas Beauty. In total, The Lost Apple Project and the Temperate Orchard Conservancy have found 23 apple varieties once thought to be extinct. Over 250 apple varieties have been documented as growing at one time in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. We are looking for 39 of those apples as they are today considered lost or extinct. Our hope is to find these lost varieties and re-introduce them to the public.
EJ Brandt is a retired electronic technician for Washington State University and is also a former Pararescue USAF Special Forces member. Currently living in Troy, Idaho, EJ is involved with The Lost Apple Project and Heritage Apple Research. EJ is responsible for the rediscovery of the Regmalard apple in the Moscow, Idaho region.
John Bunker is an apple historian, gardener and orchardist. In 1984 he started the cooperative mail-order nursery Fedco Trees. In 2012 he founded the Maine Heritage Orchard in Unity Maine. His recent book, “Apples and the Art of Detection” recounts his 40 years of tracking down, identifying and preserving rare apples. He lives with Cammy Watts on Superchilly Farm in Palermo Maine. To contact John or to learn more about John and Cammy’s activities, go to outonalimbapples.com.
Dan Bussey is an apple historian and life-long heirloom apple grower, planting his first orchard in Wisconsin in the late 1970's which later became the Albion Prairie Cyder Orchard and Mill which he operated for 24 years before becoming the orchard manager for the Seed Savers Exchange until December 2017. The Seed Savers Exchange orchard in Decorah, Iowa had 550 varieties in its collection; Dan collected many rare varieties and increased the orchard's collection from 550 to over 1,200 varieties. Dan is a past president of the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association and a long-time fruit tree grafter and has taught apple tree grafting all over the country for 33 years. Over 30 years of Dan's apple research resulted in the 2017 release of the 7-volume, "Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada" printed by the Jakkaw Press of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin and edited by Kent Whealy. This compilation covers some 16,350 apple varieties grown in North America from the 1600's until 2000 and was honored by winning the 2018 Literature Award presented by the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries meeting at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York.
Since retiring in 2017, Dan continues to teach classes on cider-making, heirloom apple tasting, apple-pie baking as well as orchard tree care at the Chicago Botanic Garden each fall. Dan continues orchard work by contributing to the Badger Apple Project in Sauk County, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Heritage Orchard Project at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh campus and in 2020, began planting the first of 1,200 apple trees for a community orchard at the Silverwood County Park near his hometown of Edgerton, Wisconsin where he will continue to teach classes on all things apple. A second treatise on the history of apples in North America and the people who grew them is currently under way and will add to what we know of this marvelous fruit in the coming years.
Amigo Bob Cantisano is president of Organic Ag Advisors, founded in 1988. He is the managing partner of Heaven and Earth Farm on the San Juan Ridge of the Sierra foothills. Amigo has over 48 years of experience growing and advising in most organic crops grown in the Western U.S. and the tropics, including vegetables, tree and bush fruit, grapes, herbs and flowers.
He advises more than 250 organic and transitional farmers, and hundreds of family farmers and gardeners worldwide. His clients range from small specialty crop growers to producers of thousands of acres of mainstream ag crops. His clients farm more than 110,000 acres of organic and transitional crops.
Amigo is the cofounder of the Ecological Farming Conference, the Ecological Farming Association, California Certified Organic Farmers, Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and founder of: Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, We The People Natural Foods Cooperative, Aeolia Organics, Starr Farms, Heaven and Earth Farm, and the Felix Gillet Institute. He is the author of numerous publications and a featured speaker at hundreds of events. He hosts a monthly organic living show on KVMR radio in Nevada City, California.
Amigo lives and farms on 11 acres of mixed fruits, berries and vegetables on the San Juan Ridge of the Sierra Nevada, where he is teaching young people and his grandchildren how to farm and live with nature.
Nikki Conley owns and operates Athol Orchards Antique Apple Farm, a small preservation orchard nestled into the woods East of Athol, Idaho. Nikki along with her husband Erreck and two daughters established the orchard in 2016 and have been focused on procuring rare and historical varieties that are well suited for North Idaho's unpredictable climates.
Nikki uses her education and experience in graphic design and teaching to tell the story of the history of apples as they pertain to early America and about native pollination. She shares with the local community the importance of preserving and bringing back the rare varieties that have been lost to the landscape. Each Autumn season the farm hosts schools, homeschool groups and private groups for the Fall Farm Tour where Nikki shares the rare varieties on the farm, discusses Apples In America, The Lost Apple Project, the True Story of Johnny Appleseed, Grafting and Pollinating. Children and grandparents alike come back every season. Most importantly, Nikki feels a great sense of accomplishment by capturing the hearts of today's youth (and even their parents) and urging them to pursue futures in agriculture.
The farm's "antique" apples will serve the farm well in the future when the farm's cider mill and bakery facility is completed. The farm has made a name for itself with its signature product, Athol Orchards Apple Cider Syrup which is sold throughout the region and shipped all over the country. With the orchard, seasonal pumpkins, apiary, fresh eggs and Nigerian Dwarf Goats. The farm operates as a true farm to fork operation while practicing strict organic orcharding/farming methods in all aspects. Nikki serves on The Lost Apple Project Committee, is the board president for the Athol Farmers Market, and also co-founded north Idaho's new Panhandle Farm Corridor which was just established this year. She also spends her spare time designing business identities and marketing for small local heritage farms as well as design work for The Lost Apple Project and the Heritage Orchard Conference.
Casimir Holeski is the owner of I.M. Tree Crops, a permaculture inspired nursery, and is the founder of the Boundary County Orchard Restoration Project, a local project intended to discover, propagate and preserve the heirloom fruit and nut trees abundantly populating beautiful Boundary County, Idaho.
Tanner Hunt is a national crop coordinator for the National Clean Plant Network who is passionate about protecting American agriculture for future generations to enjoy. She is looking forward to learning and participating in this year’s webinar series from the Heritage Orchard Conference.
Katrina Mendrey is the orchard program manager at the WARC. She received her master’s in soils from the University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. At WARC she manages the Montana Heritage Orchard Program and supports research to identify cultivars and orchard management practices suited for Montana’s climate to help Montana fruit growers be more successful in their operations. She focuses on assisting growers turn research into action through outreach and education. She is also on a quest to find the Bitterroot’s “bitterest” apple. More information about Montana apples and WARC’s fruit research can be found at www.mtapples.org or on WARC’s website http://agresearch.montana.edu/warc/.
Dr. Steve Miller completed his master’s and doctorate in mycology from Virginia Tech. He has always had a passion and taste for apples, and started an orchard on his property near Laramie. Steve became interested in apples and saving heritage cultivars when the University of Wyoming expanded, razing old neighborhoods and apple trees. He has had funding from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Program, the UW Agriculture Research Station and the USDA. He has now grafted over 1,000 heritage cultivars from across the state of Wyoming, and identified them using molecular methods. He also started a germplasm orchard of the different and unique cultivars at the UW Sheridan Research and Extension facility in Sheridan Wyoming.
Kyle Nagy is the superintendent and orchard operations manager at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center (SOAC). He received his bachelor’s in horticulture from the University of Minnesota and is currently pursuing a master’s in environmental science at the University of Idaho. The orchard at SOAC has 70 varieties of hardy apples, mostly heritage varieties, along with a handful of pear, plum and cherry varieties. SOAC is the only University of Idaho research station dedicated to organic and sustainable agriculture research.
Dr. Cameron Peace is fascinated by fruit, genetics, history and what breeding offers future generations. He is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Washington State University, and his research program aims to bring the benefits of natural diversity and the genomics age to fruit breeding. He uses new genome-wide DNA profiling techniques to understand the inherited attributes and ancestry of fruit trees. His current passion is reconstructing the family tree of all apple varieties, and the same for cherry. In Pullman, he oversees the student-run Palouse Wild Cider Apple Breeding Program.
George Raino, 65, is a retired educator from Boise. George is credited for the rediscovery of the Kittageskee and Fink lost apples. Here he is standing in front of the last, lost Kittageskee apple tree. It was likely planted between 1911 and 1915. Although the tree is hollow and in bad shape, Bob Purvis, Richard Uhlmann and George were able to collect scion wood and now the Kittageskee is back in the world. George has distributed four grafted trees and had 15 field grafts take on two apple trees on his property in Boise. One of the grafted trees is growing at his residence.
The roots of Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) began when co-founders Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer got into the nursery profession in 2001. They originally ran a nursery that had been in business for over 50 years and had a lot of older clientele, who often asked about apple varieties they remembered enjoying as children. In asking around, the Schuenemeyers learned the area’s rich history, discovered other rare varieties and realized just how many old trees still grew in Montezuma County — quite often with the descendants of settlers who planted these old orchards still living on the original farms or at least in the area. MORP was founded to preserve Colorado’s fruit growing heritage and restore an orchard culture and economy to the southwestern region.
Lori Thompson has maintained the historic Buckner Orchard in North Cascades National Park for over 20 years. She deals with many wildlife challenges, tree health, replant disease and structural problems. She's had success with repair grafting (bridge and in-arch grafting) on old trees.
Richard Uhlmann is co-founder of the Lost Apple Project of Idaho and a volunteer with the University of Idaho Extension’s Advanced Idaho Master Gardener Program in Ada County. He is a retired gastroenterologist in Boise, Idaho, and was an associate professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Washington.
For nearly 20 years, Gayle Volk, a plant physiologist at the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado, has been performing genetic analyses on apple cultivars and wild species in the USDA National Plant Germplasm System's apple collection located in Geneva, NY. She and her collaborators have used the USDA apple cultivar collection as a reference set to identify the cultivar names of historic apple cultivars in local collections and on public lands. Her presentation will provide information about the USDA apple collection as well as some of the historic apple research that has been performed.