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Extension receives historic Johnny Appleseed tree

Posted 1 June 2019 at 8:04 am

Press release and photos from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

Eric Andrews and Louisa Shiffer are shown with the tree they donated to Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

KNOWLESVILLE – Johnny Appleseed may not have originally planted his apple trees in Western New York, but Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension now has an original Appleseed tree on its grounds thanks to a donation from Albion native Eric Andrews.

The Cooperative Extension on Tuesday and Wednesday hosted Conservation Field Days, where every 6th grader in the county cycles through various ecologically themed stations. Andrews presented at one of the stations on Tuesday, introducing the students to the life and legend of Johnny Appleseed, then heading outside to have each class help dig and plant the apple tree.

“Our original idea was to create a scholarship program with these Johnny Appleseed trees as the award,” Andrews said. “First we wanted to see if there would be any public interest in the project, so we thought of Orleans CCE as a central location for planting the first one.”

Andrews is a local history and botany enthusiast, with a focused interest on heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables.

“Eric is so passionate about the history and preservation of these heirloom varieties,” said Louisa Shiffer, Andrews’ long-time partner and co-presenter at Conservation Field Days. “He grows acres of some of the most obscure varieties of fruits and vegetables, saving seed each year to make sure these varieties are not lost.”

Andrews purchased the tree from Raintree Nursery in Morton, WA. The nurserymen at Raintree were able to trace the roots of this particular variety all the way to an old homestead in Ohio, where the original tree was planted by Johnny Appleseed sometime in the 1820s. Cuttings were taken from this original tree and grafted onto rootstocks to enable exact copies of the variety to be sold to anyone interested in a piece of the history and legend of Johnny Appleseed.

“We live in one of the best areas in the world for growing apples, and we should be proud of that,” Andrews said. “We thought with this project that we could generate interest in something that we do really well in Orleans County. Technology, computers, movies can happen anywhere, but we can grow the best apples in the world right here in Western New York.”

The tree is planted in a recently renovated area of a garden just east of the OCCCE office on Rt. 31 in Albion. A plaque describing the history of the tree will be placed next to it so fairgoers and participants can get a glimpse of the legacy of an early American icon.

Sixth graders from Clifford Wise Middle School in Medina break ground for the new apple tree.

The group fills in the hole after the tree is placed.

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