Lee Calhoun and Horne Creek Farm

Lee Calhoun and Horne Creek Living Historical Farm worked in partnership for 31 years: from 1989 until his death in 2020. During that time, he served as a consultant, mentor, benefactor, and friend to the site.

In 1989, the staff of Horne Creek Farm decided to restore the Hauser Family Orchard. Several of the Hauser grandchildren remembered the names of the apples, peaches, pears, plums, and cherries that had grown

Lee Calhoun, with white hair and beard, standing next to Vivian Howard who has long brown hair. Vivian is looking and smiling at Lee
Lee Calhoun with Vivian Howard on
Season 2, Episode 6 of "A Chefs Life".

on the farm. To restore the orchard, the site needed three varieties of rare apples: Red June, Virginia Beauty, and Royal Limbertwig. Research led the staff to Calhoun’s Nursery in Pittsboro, North Carolina, run by Lee and Edith Calhoun. The Calhouns had the largest collection of old southern apple varieties in the country, the result of ten years of ongoing research and travel. For about 200 of the varieties, they had the only known trees still in existence. Fortunately for Horne Creek, the Calhouns had the varieties needed for the farm. As an added bonus, Mr. Calhoun agreed to serve as a consultant for the project.

At around the same time, Edith Calhoun began urging her husband to compile all the information they had gathered into a book. Lee decided to not only write the history of southern apples, but to also provide a description for each one. He first thought there would be 300-400 listings, but would later state, “research has proven this number to be absurdly low.” He included 1,600 old southern apple varieties in Old Southern Apples. Of those, 1,390 originated in the South. In the book, Lee preserved both the names of the apple varieties and their histories.

Lee’s book inspired others to start searching for old southern apple varieties. However, it was not ideal for the preservation of  these rare varieties to only be grown by a few scattered individuals. The establishment of a permanent collection, which would be cared for in one location, was needed. In 1997, Lee and Edith made the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard at Horne Creek Farm possible. By establishing it as a repository for 400+ varieties of old southern apple varieties, the Calhoun's preserved an integral part of the South’s agricultural heritage for future generations. The apple collection at Horne Creek is one of the most important in the country, standing alongside the Cornell University Apple Collection in Geneva, New York as a resource not only for historic research, but also for modern apple usages.

In the acknowledgement section of his book Lee said, "If the story of old southern apples has heroes, it is the men and women who have made the effort to save those varieties.” That is all too true, and he will forever stand as a giant among them.