Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine Heritage Orchard

Programs \ Maine Heritage Orchard

The Maine Heritage Orchard has a new website.
Please visit for updates and varietal listings.

Black Oxford apples
Black Oxford apples

The Maine Heritage Orchard is a ten-acre preservation orchard on the MOFGA grounds in Unity. Unlike any other orchard in the state, it will be home to over 500 different apple and pear varieties traditionally grown in Maine. We planted the first 100 trees in April of 2014 and will plant about 100 more each spring until we reach our goal. The varieties included in the collection date back to a time when most Mainers lived on farms and every farm had a small orchard of locally adapted selections. Many of these varieties are now on the verge of extinction.
The Maine Heritage Orchard is under the direction of MOFGA’s John Bunker, a nationally recognized expert in historic fruit. With the help of other agricultural historians, numerous "old timers" and hundreds of apple enthusiasts from around the state, John has assembled a unique collection of heritage fruit over the past thirty years. In an ongoing, state-wide treasure hunt for Maine’s ancient fruit trees, well over two hundred varieties have been identified and saved.
As the trees mature, fruit and grafting scions will be available for generations to come. Historical and cultural information on each variety will be widely accessible for the first time in over a century. The orchard is managed using innovative, organic orchard practices. It is planted on a terraced reclaimed gravel pit. Beds of beneficial perennial plants are interspersed with the trees. It is a learning laboratory that will be a model for backyard growers, orchardists, and agricultural educators.

There are numerous ways to get involved with the Maine Heritage Orchard. Volunteer work days are held throughout the growing season. Stayed tuned to the MOFGA website for dates or contact us at [email protected].


Thanks to all of who who made it to our annual Compost Day –
we couldn't have done it without you!

A large group of enthusiastic volunteers & orchard crew readied the young trees for winter. We prepared the ground for the 2018 spring tree planting, planted hundreds of bulbs around existing trees, and spread over three hundred bales of mulch hay on the newly renovated area. The first steps have been made to stabilize the clay-heavy soils for future fruit tree plantings. There will be more renovation efforts this summer. Regular Wednesday volunteer days will begin again this June.

Thank you very much for your support this year.
We appreciate all you do to make the Maine Heritage Orchard a success!

Enjoy the cold weather and mark your calendar – our annual Tree Planting Day will be Saturday, April 21.
Join us to celebrate Earth Day at the orchard. Lunch & cider will be provided.

Hope to see you in 2018



Maine Heritage Orchard at the 2017 Common Ground Country Fair

Thanks to all of you who made it to the fair this year, we had a great time! We're working on your apple ID's rapidly. Let us know via email if you have an interesting old fruit tree we should see. [email protected]

We're also on instagram: @maineheritageorchard

2017 Common Ground Country Fair Hayloft Tent 2017 Common Ground Country Fair Hayloft Tent
2017 Common Ground Country Fair apple display
2017 Common Ground Country Fair cider apples 2017 Common Ground Country Fair cider tasting
Cider apple varieties Noah, David, Gene & Angus host the cider tasting
Liz Lauer talks about growing pears at the 2017 Common Ground Country Fair 2017 Common Ground Country Fair display of pear varieties
Liz Lauer gives a talk about growing pears



2017 Aroostook Apple Day



You can find us at the Aroostook Apple Day on Saturday, October 7, at 61 Military Street in Houlton, Maine.

Closer to home is the annual Great Maine Apple Day held in the Exhibition Hall on the MOFGA fairgrounds in Unity, Maine. Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

And don't forget to check out Franklin County Cider Days in Western Massachusetts on November 3-5! Buy your tickets for one of the cider salons soon. (Attendance for all other events during the weekend are free of charge.) For more information, click on the link in the left panel.



Maine Heritage Orchard Update – September 2017

Harvests from the North and South Orchards
Liveland Raspberry apple
La Crescent plum Liveland Raspberry apple
Dolgo crab Staceyville pear

Dolgo crab

Staceyville pear

Thompson apple Aronia



Mesabi cherry Nutting Bumpus

Mesabi cherry

Nutting Bumpus


The Harpswell Anchor Weighs In on Heirloom Apples, September 2017

Maine Apple Camp August 18-20, 2017

Join apple experts and enthusiasts from around Maine and the country for the first annual Maine Apple Camp. Spend two days focusing on how to save, grow and use rare apples and how to make cider. Attend workshops, panels, roundtable discussions and lectures. Held at a traditional lakeside camp, Camp NEOFA, in Montville. Stay in a cabin or bring a tent, eat in the outdoor dining hall, swim, dance, play music and sample cider.

View or download this PDF with further information


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Earth Day tree planting in Unity does more than help the environment
The trees also preserve a rich history of the state as the trees are heritage varieties that disappeared with commercial farming.

By Madeline St. Amour, Staff Writer

April 22, 2017 – UNITY – Apple trees ready for planting at the Maine Heritage Orchard lay near the entrance with tags that read names such as Black Oxford, Finley Lane and Bourassa, and while these heirloom varieties may not appear next to the McIntosh and Red Delicious varieties at the grocery store, some would argue they’re superior.

“These days it’s really hard to find a really, really good pie apple in the grocery store,” said John Bunker, a co-founder of the orchard that lies on Crosby Brook Road near the grounds of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, or MOFGA.

On Earth Day this Saturday, a few dozen people gathered at the 10 acres of terraced grounds that was formerly a muddy gravel pit. They each took a tree, each with a name that can’t be found in most stores, and planted it along the rows. This is the fourth spring planting for the orchard.

Read more

Laura Sieger in a Grasslings tree. Photo by John Bunker

Laura Sieger in a Grasslings tree. Photo by John Bunker

John Bunker with one of the Blake candidates. Photo by Laura Sieger

John Bunker with one of the Blake candidates. Photo by Laura Sieger

Maine Heritage Orchard Update
By Laura Sieger, MEHO intern

February 2017 – In 2016, MOFGA's Maine Heritage Orchard (MEHO) had another successful year. In April we planted 55 more heirloom varieties that were new to the orchard. From June through October MOFGA apprentices Nick Libby, Kelsey McGrath and I led a weekly volunteer day at the orchard. We weeded around each tree, planted additional orchard companions, and did a lot of watering. Most of the trees and companions seem to have fared well, despite severe drought. Insect pests were plentiful; we manually removed many from leaves and twigs, and recorded the damage in our journals for comparisons in future years. Eventually we will use a comprehensive, holistic orchard health regimen, applying neem oil to the trunks of young trees to defend against borers, and later a mix of fish, kelp and effective microbes to promote healthy tree growth while discouraging disease. We'll apply kaolin clay in spring and summer to protect developing fruits from a variety of pests.

A few years ago this area was a gravel pit stripped of almost all life. Now most of the orchard is covered with vegetation. The clover we seeded in 2014 was lush and filled with buzzing bees all summer, and many of the woody companion plants – elderberries, blueberries, willows, etc. – are doing well.

On the last 2016 workday – our annual Compost Day in October – we prepared sites for 30 new trees with a mixture of soil amendments and compost and then put tree guards on all 230 existing trees. In November we put the remaining guards on trees in MOFGA's North and South Orchards for protection from voles, which often girdle fruit trees in winter when food is scarce. We recommend using tree guards every year until fruit trees are mature. Plastic spiral guards cost about $1 each; a section of screening tied tightly around the trunk with string also works. Be sure to remove tree guards, whether plastic or screening, in spring.

Later in the fall we collected fruit and visited old orchards around Maine. We have been identifying varieties and discovering new candidates for planting in the orchard.

We have also been working with Jesse Watson of Midcoast Permaculture Design on a plan to shape and terrace another large section of the MEHO site. Renovations should occur this summer. We will seed the newly shaped terraces with ground cover, including clover, and starting in 2018 we will plant the terraces with rows of fruit trees and hundreds of companions.

This spring we will plant another 30 trees, including Royal Sweet propagated from Rollins Orchard in Garland. The majestic, wide and spreading tree stands in a field near a former farmhouse on the Rollins property. Seeing that Royal Sweet tree for the first time in 2014 was one of the best fruit exploring trips that year.

In November 2016, John Bunker and I visited an ancient seedling tree in Down East, Maine, that reminded me of the Royal Sweet's wonderful spreading shape and enormous size. The owners, who live down shore of the Bagaduce River, named the tree "Grasslings," and we fell in love with this beauty. Bunker and some friends returned in December to collect several bushels of Grasslings fruit for cider.

A few of our fruit exploring trips last fall were more specific historical missions. We were searching for apples for which we have names and records but whose fruit we have yet to see. We poked around on old farm roads in Bowdoinham and Topsham for an apple called Givens. After meeting some wonderful people who led us to the historical society, we were shown a book that was mostly a transcribed diary from an 1800s grafter named Abraham Preble. We searched for clues in it and have been asking around to find out if anyone has seen an ancient tree with purple-red conic apples hanging on late in the season. On another of our fall fruit exploring adventures, we searched for the Blake apple and found several candidates at two old Blake farms in Brownfield. Blake is a wonderful pale to bright yellow with hints of green and nice patches of netted russet – a delicious fresh eating and cooking apple once popular in Gorham and points west.

The trees we plant this spring, like all others previously planted at MEHO, will be just over 2 years old. We collect scionwood in the winter, graft trees in early spring onto standard-sized, hardy Antonovka rootstock to preserve the varieties for a long life, then grow them in a nursery for two years. We dig them in fall and store them through winter to be planted in April. They should still be going strong in 150 years. Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees have a much shorter lifespan.

Our stewardship program "backs up" each variety growing in the Heritage Orchard. For $50 you can purchase a steward tree to plant wherever you like – in your yard, at a historical society, at schools. Your duplicate tree can provide scionwood if anything happens to its MEHO twin. Steward trees not only help preserve varieties but reintroduce them in their original communities and, we hope, will make them commonplace again.

To learn more about apples and other fruiting plants, come to the annual Seed Swap and Scion Exchange at MOFGA on Sunday, March 26. Also, grafting classes will be held this spring at MOFGA and elsewhere in Maine. Find details under the "Events" tab at You can also join us for MEHO's fourth annual spring tree planting on Saturday, April 22, at MOFGA's Maine Heritage Orchard from 9 a.m. to noon.


APRIL 2016

Volunteers prepared planting holes at the Heritage Orchard last September. Join us for our spring planting day on April 23, 2016.

Celebrate Earth Day by planting trees at the Maine Heritage Orchard! On April 23rd, we will add another 65 heirloom apple varieties to the collection. We will also plant woody native orchard "companion" plants. The day starts at 9 a.m. with a demonstration on how to plant a tree. All ages are welcome. Please bring a shovel! We will work until noon. MOFGA Earth Day events will continue into the afternoon. If you plan to stay for the entire day, please join us for lunch in the Common Ground Exhibition Hall. We will work through gray or rainy weather but in the event of a heavy downpour, will postpone the planting to the following day, Sunday, April 24, at the same time. For more information, email us at [email protected]. We hope to see you there!

The scion collection frenzy!

Haas Tobey talks about the Maine Heritage Orchard

Heritage Orchard grafters at work

MARCH 2016

Every year, a crowded line of people snakes around the four or five rows of tables piled with apple, pear, and plum scions. It is exciting to look at it all and think of the possibilities, all of the trees you could have! This year I knew I’d be leaving with more than I had intended. The Heritage Orchard crew had stocked the place with heirlooms while the cider lovers contributed the gnarliest of their wild apple discoveries. Say the name of a particular variety aloud, and someone was sure to swoop in and describe its merits. The same went for the seed swap. I was most enticed by two tables full of different dry beans.

Beyond the seeds and scions, there was an area dedicated to English basket willow. I talked to someone who was planning to make a living structure out of it. Folks from the Maine Rice Project demonstrated how we can grow rice in Maine. They grow about 20 different varieties themselves in both wetlands and on dry soil. Maine cider makers came together to give a talk on the qualities of a good cider apple while Todd Little-Siebold talked about the history of apples in Maine.

The Heritage Orchard ran its first annual custom grafting fundraiser with great success. We raised $350.00 for the orchard and many an apple lover went home with freshly grafted and ready to flourish saplings. Thank you to our volunteer grafters and to the folks at Fedco who donated trees and grafting supplies to the cause! Look for us next year. The scion exchange offers fruit varieties that cannot be found anywhere else!

– Abbey Verrier

An image from From Huey Coleman's film, "Maine Heritage Orchard," showing orchard director John Bunker. The film will be presented throughout Maine this winter and spring.

View the Maine Heritage Orchard film on YouTube

MARCH 2016 – Prize-winning Maine filmmaker Huey Coleman's "Maine Heritage Orchard" film will be shown during the 2016 Maine Short Film Festival, sponsored by the Maine Film & Video Association.

Huey was at the first planting day of MOFGA's Maine Heritage Orchard in 2014, when volunteers planted 102 heirloom apple trees on a reclaimed sand and gravel pit in Unity, Maine. He continued documenting the project for the next year and a half.

Huey's film will be shown at these locations:

March 24, 7 p.m. – Stonington Opera House, Stonington
April 7, 7 p.m. – The Alamo, Bucksport
April 14, 7 p.m. – Denmark Arts Center, Denmark
April 21, 7 p.m. – Schoodic Arts for All, Winter Harbor
April 28, 7 p.m. – Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville

The video is also posted at (click on the video titled, "Maine Heritage Orchard")

For more about MOFGA's Maine Heritage Orchard, please see Abbey Verrier's article in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. For more about Films by Huey, please visit or And for updates on the Maine Short Film Festival, see


What's New in the Orchard

Colby College students dig in at the Maine Heritage Orchard on April 19, 2015.

Maine Heritage Orchard Update: A Successful Spring Planting: April 24, 2015

By Abbey Verrier

The 2015 spring planting week at the Maine Heritage Orchard was an incredible success. It began on April 15 when a group of sophomores from Mt. View High School spent a day in the orchard with MOFGA's Jason Tessier, planting nearly 500 native woody shrubs. A few days later, on the big April 19 planting day, 40 volunteers ages 8 to 80 planted 75 historic apple trees as well as another 600 native shrubs. The shrubs, which will act as perennial companion plants in the orchard, include highbush cranberry, American plum, black pussy willow, highbush blueberry, elderberry, nannyberry, juneberry, chokeberry, pagoda dogwood, silky dogwood, redosier, winterberry, witch hazel and clethra. Each species will contribute to the orchard ecosystem for many years to come.

The depleted soil in the orchard is in some areas mostly sand and in others, full of clay. As the site was once a gravel pit stripped of its topsoil, our focus is to select plants that will prosper in and improve poor soil conditions. Redosier dogwood, nannyberry and chokeberry will help stabilize the wet, erosion-prone slopes on the southeastern end of the terraces. Highbush blueberry and highbush cranberry planted on the dry slopes of the north fence line will do the same. We planted America plum and ‘Ruby Spice’ clethra, a beautiful shrub that attracts pollinators, near the front gate of the orchard. After planting his hundredth cranberry plant, one volunteer proclaimed that he would be back in a few years to pick his share of the berries for a good pie. We can indeed envision a time when volunteers will come together not to plant but to harvest the berry shrubs now scattered throughout the orchard.

This year's batch of apple trees went into the ground with a healthy dose of fungal inoculant, compost and mineral rock powders. In some areas the ground was still hard with frost, a challenge that people took on with vigor. I won't forget watching a group of Colby College students all tackling one hole, digging and chiseling until their tree had enough space to spread its roots.

With the spring planting, the heritage apple collection has expanded to 175 different apple varieties. That's 175 heirloom apples that were cultivated in Maine before 1900. Some, such as the ‘Stowe’ and ‘Rolfe’ apples, actually originated in Maine (Perham and Guilford, respectively), while others, such as the ‘Blenheim Orange’, ‘Drap d'Or’ and ‘Charlamoff’ (from England, France and Russia), were imported to New England and migrated to Maine sometime in the 19th century. Every variety in the orchard has its own story, flavor and use. Explore our directory of apples at to learn more about each. Or, better yet, come visit us. The best time to see the scope of the Heritage Orchard project is now, throughout summer and early fall, when the trees and shrubs are at the season's peak. Come check it out and get involved. Weeding, fertilizing and other maintenance tasks are ongoing, and we'd love to have you join us any time.

For more information about the orchard and to get involved, write to us at [email protected]

Abbey Verrier is the Maine Heritage Orchard research assistant.

Help Plant 75 Historic Apple and Pear Trees: Sunday, April 19, 2015

Celebrate spring's arrival by planting a tree! On April 19th we will add another 75 apple and pear trees to the Heritage Orchard collection. We will also plant woody native orchard "companion" plants. We'll start at 9 AM with a demonstration on how to plant a tree. All ages are welcome. Bring shovels and gloves, lunch, the kids, and whatever else you think you will need. Some stewardship trees will be on hand and available for sale. We expect to work into the afternoon but recommend folks come early to be sure to enjoy the fun. We will work through gray or rainy weather but in the event of a heavy downpour, will postpone the planting one week to Saturday April 25 at the same time. FMI: [email protected]

Documentation at The Maine Heritage Orchard: 2/1/15

The best thing for us fruit enthusiasts to do during the chilly months is to cozy up by the woodstove and dream of apples. In recent weeks, we've finalized our list of varieties to be planted in the orchard this Spring. Now we are creating a record for each apple variety in the orchard. What is the record made up of? Well, there is more of a story behind each apple than you may have guessed. Every variety has its own history; where it came from and who first cultivated it. Us Mainers want to know how it got to Maine and where it grew successfully in the state. Is the tree hardy? Vigorous?  Disease resistant or susceptible? Will the tree grow to be very upright, droopy, or spreading? What does the apple look like? And most importantly: what does it taste like? When is it ripe? How is it best used? Does it taste better fresh, cooked, or in cider? Will it be sweeter in February than when we picked it fresh off the tree?

For many of the heritage apples, we can readily answer these questions from firsthand experience. But over the years, other varieties have fallen to the wayside and are now little grown and so rare that the body of knowledge surrounding them, especially at the firsthand level, has been lost.  One goal of the heritage orchard is to excavate and re-build that forgotten culture. Because back when we had an agricultural economy, there really was a rich culture surrounding apples and apple diversity.

In the 19th century in Maine, the typical home was a homestead; every family grew their own food and everyone had a small home orchard. Folks were discovering their own tasty and useful varieties out of both necessity and fun. It's simply what you did. When your neighbor had a particularly delectable apple, you grafted it into your own orchard and so did other neighbors. Each town had its favorite varieties that would then be swapped with communities in other towns and counties. Out of this tradition grew a regional market for apples and later, an export market.

We can think of the 19th century as the bridge between the homesteads and family run farms of traditional agriculture and the highly commercial and global system of agriculture that we are a part of today.  While the practice of homesteading retained its deep roots, urban populations and the need to transport food into cities, grew. It was a prosperous time for apples, apple growers, and nurserymen; an orchardist could make good money growing fruit. The bigger the business became, the more of a need there was for orchardists to grow a specific kind of apple. A good, marketable apple was pretty, stored well, and was durable enough to make the long journey from Maine down to Boston or overseas to England. There became a need for research on and classification of apple varieties. Up popped the scholars that would take on the task of collecting and recording all the apple varieties of a region.

It is these apple guides or pomological texts that we consult to learn more about a particular variety or to use in identifying a suspected heirloom. Books like S.A. Beach's "The Apples of New York," Downing's "Fruit and Fruit Trees of America," or Bradford's "The Apples of Maine" are a real treat to read. These guys wrote about hundreds of different apples with care and detail. The level of observation is rarely matched today. Their books have been our blueprint to tracking down old varieties in Maine. They have also helped us remember what kinds of questions we want to be asking about apples as a food and a crop, as we seek out better flavor and growing practices. By creating a modern record of Maine's apples we are picking up where their work left off: just before varietal diversity in New England and the greater US really took the plunge. We are currently compiling information for each apple in the Heritage Orchard using old literature and observations from the few people growing these varieties today. There is still so much missing. We look forward with anticipation to when the Unity orchard trees mature. At that time we'll have a centralized location where we can observe each apple in real time. How do these apples really taste? Will climate change affect some varieties' ability to thrive? What are the old texts missing about the apples' performance in the kitchen, in cider, or in the cellar? Only time will tell.

By Abbey Verrier, Heritage Orchard research assistant

Become an Apple Tree Steward: 1/15

Now that winter is here, you've undoubtedly been perusing every seed and nursery catalog you can get your hands on, eager to plan for that time when the ground has thawed. Have you considered planting an heirloom apple tree? One unique way to add to your garden, orchard, farm, or backyard is by purchasing a tree from the Maine Heritage Orchard stewardship program. The stewardship program was devised to make “back-ups” available of all the rare varieties in the Heritage Orchard. You buy one or several trees and then fill out a form letting us know where you planted it (anywhere you'd like). If something happens to our Heritage Orchard specimen, we can call you for the backup grafting wood necessary to propagate new trees.

Become a steward and help put Maine's heirloom apples back into Maine's communities! We don’t want the Heritage Orchard to be a museum. We want it to be a vehicle for repopulating Maine with a wide diversity of classic fruit. We’re offering these apple trees through the Fedco Trees catalog this year. Sixty percent of the purchase price of each tree helps fund the Maine Heritage Orchard. For more information on the stewardship program, see page 19 of the 2015 Fedco Trees catalog or visit

Conservation Farm of the Year: 12/14

We are delighted to announce that the Waldo Soil and Water Conservation District has made MOFGA the Conservation Farm of the Year for its work on the Maine Heritage Orchard. Our first season growing trees and perennial plants on the property is now successfully behind us. For decades, the Heritage Orchard site was subject to gravel mining. A steep and sandy basin of nutrient-depleted land was all that was left when we acquired the property. Gravel mining removes all of the flora, topsoil, and the subsoil gravel from an area. The place was practically barren of vegetation when we got it. A lot of work went into transforming the steep slopes of the gravel pit into a network of terraces before it was even possible to plant trees that could thrive there. MOFGA has since been investigating ways to re-build the soil and create a place that can sustain agriculture and wildlife once again. Next Spring we will plant another 80 heirloom fruit trees as well as many more perennial plants. These perennials are beneficial to the trees, soil-building efforts, and in attracting bees and other insects to the orchard. We hope the Maine Heritage Orchard will be a model for other agricultural and land conservation efforts. And we hope this recognition will motivate others to get involved in preserving heirloom apples and in bringing this place back to life.


The Maine Heritage Orchard 2014 – Our first Year in the Ground


In April, we planted the first 100 apple trees in the Heritage Orchard. Volunteers of all ages put on their work boots and dug some holes.

A view of the terraces on planting day.

Our perennial companion plantings (foreground) flourished in late summer.

In September, we laid jute netting over a cover crop seeding to renovate the next section of the gravel pit site.

Apprentices Laura and Natalie continued the search for old apples in Maine.


Thank you for your help in making the Heritage Orchard a reality!


The most recent photos of the new orchard site appear at the top.
October 6, 2013 - Orchard Fall Soil Preparation Workshop and Volunteer Work Day. More than 30 volunteers helped John Bunker and others prepare planting areas for the orchard. They placed compost and soil amendments at each future planting site, rolled out hay mulch, staked each site and then enjoyed a lunch prepared in the MOFGA kitchen. Thanks, volunteers! And John Bunker, C.J. Walke and Jack Kertesz. Standard size trees will be planted in the prepared areas next spring.

Here's the recipe for soil amendments:
2 wheelbarrows of compost

2 qts. rock phosphate

2 qts. granular azomite

2 qts. greensand

1-1/2 qts. menafee humates
1 qt. blood meal

1 qt. kelp

3/4 qt. bone char

The terraces feature swales (trenches) dug into the back edge. These are filled with wood chips. The swales catch the water. The chips soak up the water and act like a sponge, releasing the water slowly into the terrace growing beds.

Machines created the terraces

On August 13,
volunteers gathered to
mark out the orchard terraces

The work of renovating the gravel pit began in August 2013

The gravel pit
before renovation began


Contribute to MOFGA’s Fruitful Future!

Become an apple tree steward

The Maine Heritage Orchard on the MOFGA property in Unity is now the home to over 500 apple and pear varieties traditionally grown in Maine. Many of these varieties are on the verge of extinction. The orchard is planted on a terraced, reclaimed gravel pit and is managed using innovative, organic orchard practices. There are lots of ways to get involved. Stay tuned for volunteer opportunities or email us at [email protected]