It was a classic three seasons Oregon spring day in early March when a small group of dedicated tree planters transplanted 106 whips into the field just north of the Moondog's annual production field at the Outpost. These trees are special. The diversity alone is astounding. In all, 66 varieties of rare and unique dessert, or fresh eating, apples are represented. This collection represents many grower's choice selections and notes over the years, scion wood collection, days of grafting work, weeks of research, planning and selection, seasons more of nursing young trees, and of course; the final planning and preparation of their permanent home in a field that has been carefully prepared for a full season now. And for an added layer of complexity, this orchard is planned to be dry farmed; meaning to be grown without the use of irrigation.
To say that the conception of this orchard was a collaboration is an understatement. I am eternally grateful to my collaborators, who showed their support in many ways. The genetics themselves came from all over. Many thanks to the Agrarian Sharing Network for their work in preserving and dispersing genetic material, as well as Keegan Caughlin from Taproot Growers and Andrew Swartz of Ridgeline Meadows for guidance and material along the way. We couldn't have implemented a project at this scale without gleaning an amazing amount of wisdom and experience from the folks around us. A big Thank You to all of you who helped graft a couple trees, create makeshift nursery bed fencing when the electric fence failed, or keep variety tags straight on planting day. The sum of your efforts is felt whole heartedly.
We will be overjoyed to see this orchard take root and spread its branches in the coming years. It's not your typical modern orchard. It's a bit of throwback; in its design, spacing, and variety selection. There's a lot to say about the typical modern commercial orchard, we'll leave that for another post.. But we're optimistic that this year's dry farm apple orchard will prove to be an incredibly resilient, high quality, high yielding, low input and multi-purpose orchard system that isn't rocket science to manage, or replicate. Times are changing, and the methodology in which we grow food is changing. We're proud to be part of that change at Moondog's.