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 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
By Jacob Mentlik “Most fruits which we prize and use depend entirely on our care … but the apple emulates man’s independence and enterprise … making its way amid the aboriginal trees.” -Henry David Thoreau It is believed that the origin of the apples we all know and love can be traced back to south
By Jacob Mentlik For decades Maine’s apple expert and pomological detective John Bunker has been hunting for and rediscovering rare old varieties of apples. Using all of the clues he can gather, he pieces together the history and possible locations of ancient trees, finds and collects fruit and then spends hours poring over old books
Possibly the Sarah apple. Photo by John Bunker By John Bunker Readers of this column will recall my search for the Sarah apple – an old Franklin County variety that originated on the East Wilton farm of John Tufts and was named after his daughter. Old literature described it as “vigorous … productive, an annual bearer [that]
The author in a Grasslings tree. Photo by John Bunker John Bunker with one of the Blake candidates. Photo by Laura Sieger By Laura Sieger, MEHO Intern 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