Tune in for a very special conversation with apple expert John Bunker.
John grew up in Massachusetts and California, but on his first visit to Maine at age 11, he knew that Maine is where he would make his home. He moved to Super Chilly Farm with a bunch of friends on the day he graduated from Colby College and has never left. Over the years he has tried his hand at many different ventures- teaching high school English, managing the Belfast Co-op Store, selling salads and cider at the Common Ground Fair, teaching shop at Pine Island Camp, building houses and purchasing for the Federation of Maine Co-ops. Yet none of these things grabbed his attention like the the old apple trees growing in the fields around Palermo. As he picked the fruits from these neglected trees each fall, he began to notices the differences in the apples – to his surprise they were not all Macs. Through seasons of observation and hours of discussions with the old timers around town, he learned to identify the different varieties and appreciate their stories. His interest grew into a passion that became his life’s work.
In 1984 John started Fedco Trees ostensibly to encourage others to plant trees, but really it was a way to fund his insatiable habit of tracking down heirloom fruit varieties in all corners of Maine. You can read about his adventures each year in the Fedco Trees Catalog and also in his book, “Not Far From the Tree: A Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo, Maine.” John has done such a good job spreading the word about the pleasures of heirloom apples, that now people line up at the Common Ground Fair to view his apple display and bring him old apples to identify.
John’s most recent project is creating the Maine Heritage Orchard at MOFGA. This orchard which is located in a renovated gravel pit adjacent to the MOFGA fairgrounds will be home to 500 or more historic pears and apples. When he is not thinking about apples, he….ok, he is always thinking about apples.