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Saving a heritage orchard

Tucked away in Central are rows upon rows of rare apple trees. Dating back to the 1850’s, Cornish miners migrated to the area for work. Knowing that they would not be returning to their homeland, they brought with them seeds that took to the Upper Peninsula climate. Keweenaw County Commissioner Jim Vivian has long taken advantage of the trees on his property to host cider parties. Central Road is owned almost exclusively by the Keweenaw County Historical Society and the push is on to designate the legacy trees as a heritage orchard, says Vivian.

Right on your left as you came up the hill, we’re going to plant about 50-75 trees using semidwarf root stock and collect the scion wood from trees that are considered significant.

An application is currently being reviewed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. There is even speculation that some of the trees represent the last of an otherwise extinct species. In the meantime, New Power Tours and Michigan Tech master gardener Quincy Higgins led a group of about a dozen people Saturday to help prune back wild growth in the orchard. Over three hours, roughly eight trees were trimmed.

Higgins says that the opportunity to manage the orchard represents a great capstone project for students at Michigan Tech. She says that Saturday’s experience makes her think some of the trees date back to the 19th century. Interspersed throughout are cherry and plum producers as well.

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