February 6, 2023
The Search for the “Lost” Heritage Apples with Tom Brown
One a day keeps the doctor away. Join us on this week’s PreserveCast, as we talk with Tom Brown who is on the search for “Lost” heritage apple varieties. Listen in as Tom shares his decades long journey to rediscover heritage apples and what it takes to preserve these “Lost” breeds.
About Our Guest
Tom Brown is an enthusiastic 81-year-old who got interested in heritage apples after he retired from a thirty-year engineering profession. He has always lived in the piedmont area of North Carolina and currently resides in Clemmons, NC, with his wife Merrikay in their black locust sided house (Tom was the house Contractor).
Tom and his wife both love farmers markets and often plan the schedule of their vacations so they can visit key farmers markets. At a large farmers market in Winston-Salem, Tom was intrigued when he saw a man selling heritage apples, apples with intriguing names, tastes, colors, etc. Eventually he learned that there was a lost heritage apple in his area called the Harper’s Seedling, started searching in 1999 for this apple led him through three near-by counties and he eventually found five very rare apple varieties in Iredell County where he grew up. Next, he started searching in Wilkes County (NC) and this proved to be the mother-load of old apples, eventually he found about 300 heritage apple varieties associated with this county.
After twenty-three years of searching for heritage apples, Tom has found over 1,200 heritage apple varieties, finding actual trees of which he personally got cuttings for grafting (he has never accumulated apple varieties by “trading scion wood”, but instead he found his own trees). His apple hunt has taken him to seven south-eastern states, plus established contacts all over the world. In searching for the old apple varieties, Tom has driven well over 410,000 miles and displayed heritage apples at least 186 festivals.
Finding the old apples is just the initial step in Tom’s effort, because these apples must not be allowed to slip into extinction. His preservation efforts include grafting and selling the heritage apple varieties he finds, sharing his finds with others who sell apple trees, and extensively donating trees to preservation orchards. Tom is not resting on his past accomplishments; he is still very actively searching for additional lost apple varieties with no diminishment in his effort.
Learn more: https://www.applesearch.org/