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Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar March 8th

CAMPTON HILLS, IL: Learn how to grow antique apple trees at Garfield Farm Museum’s 33rd annual Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar on Sunday, March 8th at 1:30pm. For $30, 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. Not only has he re-discovered many antique varieties he also is one of the top experts in the country on historic varieties. He has written “The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada”, a 7 volume work listing all known varieties.

Growing heirloom varieties of apples keeps people of today connected to their country’s heritage. Just growing a scion grafted to root stock to a 6-7 year old fruit bearing tree breaks down the barrier that hides how sun, rain, and good soil produce the food on which all depend. In Americas’ 417 year colonization and founding, only since 1920 has the urban population outnumbered the rural agrarian residents. America’s success began with and continues to rely on its ability to produce food for the world.

Growing one’s own heirloom varieties harkens back to a time when people readily knew the difference in taste, cooking, or cider subtleties just as today wine enthusiasts and varietal coffee experts abound. Growing old types creates shared experiences with long past ancestors, enjoying tastes they once knew.

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.

Once fitted together, wrapping the graft to keep the graft from drying out while it is stored in a cool space (around 40 degrees F) for 4-6 weeks allows the graft to take.

As much as modern agriculture seeks that one most profitable type of apple or dairy cow or corn, the miracle of genetics to not be constant and fixed prevents true mass production like that of the factory. The fact that over 7000 varieties of apples existed at the beginning of the 20th century have since dwindled down to 2000 types reflects the modern era’s lack of understanding the value of genetic diversity. Without diversity, food sources can be threatened by lack of disease resistance, drought intolerance, or the ability stay edible after being harvested.

Dan Bussey has been the instructor of the seminar donating his time and materials since the seminar’s inception in 1988. 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. Mr. Bussey graciously donates his time and grafts to the farm to make this event possible.

Once the ground can be worked and the danger of frost has passed, the grafts should be placed in a garden where they will be protected and well watered for a year before setting them out in their permanent location. They will leaf out and bloom when set outside.

There is a $30 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 375-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.