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Antique apple tree grafting seminar March 5th at Garfield Farm Museum

Feb 24, 2017 08:57AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

Learn how to grow antique apple trees at Garfield Farm Museum’s 30th annual Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar on Sunday, March 5th at 1:30pm. For $35, participants make 3 grafts of heirloom varieties to take home for planting this spring. Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, Ill off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. Reservations are required by calling (630) 584-8485 or e-mail

Apple tree expert Dan Bussey leads the seminar and will bring several different antique varieties of scions. His efforts have been recognized over the years by the Seed Saver’s Exchange of Decorah, IA, as Mr. Bussey serves as Orchard Manager for their orchard of heritage apple varieties.

Planting one’s own apple trees makes sense in two ways. For all the interest in local food sources, nothing could be more local than one’s own backyard. The opportunity to rediscover what most of our ancestors knew can be a personal lesson as well as an important one for the household children or visiting grandchildren.

Secondly, the economic fact that many people realize they may be staying in their homes longer than they  anticipated.  This provides an opportunity to plant a tree that the owners will be able to enjoy the proverbial fruits of their labor. Although one must be patient for several years before one sees the first apple, the results are worth the wait.     

Grafting attaches a root to a “scion”, essentially the last few inches of last year’s branch growth from a variety of apple one wants to keep producing. This can be used to preserve the old variety’s unique genetic traits. An apple seed will not grow into the same exact type of tree from which it came. Like animals, many plants, like apple trees, require genes from two parents. Just planting the seeds of a tree doesn’t guarantee the genetic signature of the tree will be saved. Only grafting can preserve the exact type. The grafting process itself has been used for thousands of years. The process itself is relatively simple. A small branch or “scion” of the desired tree is carefully cut to match a mirrored cut on the rootstock. The root used for the seminar is a smaller, semi-dwarf variety that is good for a backyard or small orchard.

Most store varieties have been bred for appearance, ability to survive early picking, and shipping across country or half the world, so taste is not as important. Many heritage varieties had distinctive traits for specific purposes. Some are better for cider, while others may be better for baking. Others store longer over a winter and others might be more disease resistant for a particular locale.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were over 7000 different varieties of apples. Now there are less than 2000 varieties available. Not only is keeping a multitude of apples in existence important for our heritage, but also for their many of uses. The mass markets of today are only looking for good multi-purpose apples. With fewer farmers and orchard acreage dwindling, it is important to be pro-active.

Dan Bussey has been the instructor of the seminar donating his time and materials since the seminar’s inception twenty nine years ago. He brings scions to graft to root stock that is raised especially for grafting.  He will also instruct participants on how to care for their grafts until they are planted. If weather or time allows, the group will go out to the museum's orchard and be given instruction on pruning their trees once they are established. Mr. Bussey graciously donates his time and grafts to the farm to make this event possible.

There is a $35 donation for the class and reservations are required. Participants are asked to bring a sharp knife. Call the museum at (630) 584-8485, or email at Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. The 374-acre site is a historically intact former 1840s farm and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s working farm museum by volunteers and donors from around the country.

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