They are almost gone now -- Southerners who grew up on a farm before World War II. The men who plowed behind a mule, "busting the middles" in the cornfield. The women who cooked on a wood stove, adjusting the fire to bake perfect biscuits. One thing that all those who remain remember is the farm orchard with its big apple trees. Watch their eyes light up as they recall the old southern apples -- Horse, Blacktwig, Pippin, Limbertwig, Magnum Bonum, Ben Davis, and on and on.
In this day of shopping malls and automobiles, it is easy to forget that the South was an agrarian society for over three hundred years, with Southerners depending on their own fields, gardens and orchards for food. In the farm orchard the apple was supreme, and apples in some form were eaten every day. Apples were picked fresh from trees from June until November and stored in cellars or pits through the winter. They were eaten stewed, baked, fried and in pies. They were made into jelly, preserves and apple butter. Apple juice was made into cider, vinegar, and brandy. Apples slices were dried in the sun or preserved with sulfur fumes.
All of this southern lore has been virtually forgotten. Also forgotten is the astonishing fact that Southerners developed over 1,800 unique apple varieties and grew another 300 varieties of northern or European origin. Sadly, perhaps a thousand of these southern apple varieties have disappeared over the years, but Home Creek Living Historical Farm (a North Carolina Historic Site) has collected four hundred and twenty-five of the remaining varieties in its Southern Heritage Apple Orchard. This orchard preserves an important part of a vanished way of life -- subsistence farming in the South, which existed from the earliest English settlements in the 1600s to the mechanization of southern farms in the late 1920s.
Horne Creek's vision of an orchard filled with heritage apple varieties is now a reality. Visitors to the site can purchase apples, grafted trees, and scionwood; or, participate in classes and seminars devoted to growing heirloom apples, grafting, or pruning.
You can help in this effort of preserving a unique part of our agricultural heritage by “adopting” a tree. With a one-time donation of $500, you can honor a special person or family by sponsoring an apple tree in their name. Companies, organizations or individuals may also wish to sponsor a tree. Each sponsorship will be recognized by a 4” x 6” plaque in front of the tree indicating the variety, place of origin, and sponsor. Your tax-deductible gift will be used for three purposes: 1) to support the care of the adopted tree through its life span of 20-50 years; 2) to provide funds for orchard equipment and buildings; and, 3) to fund the orchard’s educational and cultural programs/seminars.
We believe the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard is an enduring legacy for everyone. History will come alive for children as they observe the preparation of apple butter, fried pies, cider, and cider vinegar. There will be nostalgic moments as senior citizens remember the apples of their youth. Our ultimate goal is to capture the hearts of the public as they see, touch, and taste heirloom apples, which for 300 years have been part of the southern way of life.
We hope you will consider supporting this effort and take advantage of this truly unique opportunity to honor someone special. Enclosed you will find additional information regarding “adopting” or sponsoring a tree. There are a limited number of trees from which to choose, so please make your choice as soon as possible. Thank you for your support.
Emily Grogan, President, North Carolina Living Historical Farm Committee, Inc.