The Maine Heritage Orchard
About the Maine Heritage Orchard
The Maine Heritage Orchard (MHO) is a 10-acre preservation and educational orchard located at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) in Unity. The orchard is home to over 360 varieties of apples and pears traditionally grown in Maine, with more being added each year. The collection includes varieties from all 16 counties in Maine, dating back as far as 1630, many of which MHO has reintroduced to Maine growers through MOFGA’s yearly seed swap and scionwood exchange.
The orchard is planted in a reclaimed gravel pit and is managed using innovative, organic orcharding practices. In 2013 the land was reshaped into terraces, and the first trees were planted on Earth Day 2014. Clovers, grasses, native flowers, shrubs and trees are encouraged to grow alongside the fruit trees to help stabilize the depleted land, promote healthy soil growth and create a balanced ecosystem.
In collaboration with College of the Atlantic and Washington State University, MOFGA staff are in the process of analyzing and cataloging the DNA of all trees in the orchard, as well as many old trees in the state. The goal of this project is to fill in gaps in genetic lineages, confirm identification of Maine varieties and fill in the early history of European agriculture in North America.
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By C.J. Walke, MOFGA’s Orchard Program Manager At this year’s Common Ground Country Fair, the Hayloft Tent was packed with educational talks, abuzz with fruit enthusiasts hovering over our heritage fruit displays, and brimming with curious fairgoers looking to learn about topics such as beekeeping, beneficial plant propagation and permaculture, among many other things. However,
By C.J. Walke, MOFGA’s Orchard Program Manager For decades, fruit enthusiasts, explorers and experts have worked tirelessly to determine the identity of varieties found in abandoned orchards and on random roadside trees, and even the relatively younger tree that lost its nursery tag along the way. A lot of this detective work revolves around the
By Laura Sieger This summer marks the Maine Heritage Orchard’s 10-year anniversary. It’s pretty wild that a decade ago Dennis Jones and crew were shaping the old spent gravel pit into a terraced, plantable landscape that would become the Maine Heritage Orchard. John Bunker and Russell Libby had campaigned for a space to be used
By Lauren Cormier Over the last five years, another pome fruit has been making its way into the Maine Heritage Orchard: the European pear. So far there have been 20 pear trees planted, each a different variety historically grown in Maine. Many of the trees were propagated with scions obtained from the United States Department
By Lauren Cormier I was one of many volunteers at the first tree planting day in the Maine Heritage Orchard eight years ago in the spring of 2014. Then, hardly a plant was in sight within the precipitous gravel pit that descended sharply to a pond. It had recently been terraced and regraded when we
By Jacob Mentlik There is a lot more than just apples growing at the Maine Heritage Orchard. While most commercial orchards lean toward monoculture, featuring long even rows of one particular species of fruit tree, the goal at MHO is to create a polyculture orchard, with many species growing together in harmony, mimicking the diversity