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Apple Buffs Discuss "Heritage Orchards" in Sandpoint

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

People working to preserve old varieties of fruits met in Sandpoint today [Friday]. The University of Idaho’s Organic Agriculture Center hosted its first-ever historic orchard conference.

Many people around the West are studying old apples, plums, pears and other types of fruit and growing them in their orchards.

One of them is Dave Benscoter. He’s an apple detective and historian from Chattaroy, who works with residents of Washington’s Whitman County with their Lost Apple Project. Benscoter has worked with others to discover dozens of apple varieties that once grew in the region, but had disappeared.

He said apples initially came west with people traveling on the Oregon Trail. They were initially grown in the Walla Walla area, but also spread to and flourished in the Palouse.

“I found out there were only two apples from eastern Washington that ever achieved any notoriety or any success. And that was the Spokane Beauty and an apple called the Palouse. Palouse at one time, carloads, lots of Palouse were shipped from Whitman County back to places like New York,” Benscoter said.

Now Benscoter and others are working with other apple detectives around the country. They swap branches they cut from their trees. They share information and pictures. But Kyle Nagy from the University of Idaho’s Organic Agriculture Center says, even though they have the Internet to help them network, there have been no conferences, at least in this region, where they can come together, until now.

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