Heritage Orchard Conference Presented by U of I as Monthly Webinar Series

Heritage Orchard Conference Presented by U of I as Monthly Webinar Series

News Release | University of Idaho

A pandemic-prompted conversion of plans for another Sandpoint, Idaho-based Heritage Orchard Conference to a virtual format may demonstrate the true reach of the World Wide Web.

More than 150 people, including residents of Canada and New Zealand, registered during the first week since word began to circulate about the nine-month webinar series that begins Aug. 19. The virtual conference is presented by the University of Idaho.

Much of the early interest in the series reflects conference committee members’ use of social media and email, U of I Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center Manager Kyle Nagy said.

The original plan for the 2020 Heritage Orchard Conference was to hold it in late October or early November as the apple harvest ended. “We wanted to invite people to bring in favorite apples for a big tasting,” Nagy said.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the conference organizing committee shifted to accommodate the new reality.

The virtual Heritage Orchard Conference series begins at 10 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday, Aug. 19, with “Sleuthing for Lost Apples: Lessons from the Experts.” The experts include Spokane-based David Benscoter of the Lost Apple Project and John Bunker of the Maine Heritage Orchard with Nagy moderating.

The series will draw university researchers, orchardists, hobbyists and others. Speakers will include experts from Washington, Oregon, Maine, Wyoming and Montana who will present on Zoom.

Speakers will address apple identification using DNA; apples as we know them today and their historic uses; the histories of apples and people behind them; community-based apple conservation efforts; restoration pruning; grafting techniques; and perennial fruits of California’s Northern Sierra Gold Rush era.

More information about the conference and registration is available online at https://www.uidaho.edu/cals/sandpoint-organic-agriculture-center/conference.

Benscoter presented the keynote presentation for the first Heritage Orchard Conference in May 2019 at the U of I Sandpoint center. He and E.J. Brandt of Troy, Idaho, have worked together and with other apple sleuths for several years in search of apple varieties thought lost to history.

The Lost Apple Project of the Whitman County (Washington) Historical Society reflects the Inland Northwest’s early status as a proving ground for hundreds of apple varieties from around the world.

The U of I  became involved when it created the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center in 2018 after it acquired the Sandpoint Orchard through a donation from Dennis Pence and his family.

The orchard employs organic agriculture methods to produce 68 variety of apples and pears, raspberries, apricots, plums and cherries.

The orchard’s selection offers just a taste of the 15,000 named apple varieties known from historical records across North America. Some 3,000 varieties remain in production today.

Many heritage apple varieties fell from favor among orchardists because they were difficult to ship or store. Some fell victim to market fads as orchardists tore out old favorites for new hot sellers.

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