Friday, October 26, 2012
North American Fruit Explorers--NAFEX
The North American Fruit Explorers was founded 45 years ago for that very purpose--to expand knowledge. Today there are thousands of members from across the country, Canada and farther. Anyone is welcome from the rankest (the closest you ever came to planting an apple was accidentally swallowing a seed) amateur to the most erudite pomologist. The annual membership fee is nominal--$19. And if you're serious about growing fruit, any fruit, there is no other place where you have access to so many experienced people so willing to share information.
Today, everything is available online, a far cry from the days when member's letters were exchanged in a round robin system by USPS. Members can access archived Pomona's, the quarterly magazine. Pomona is a compilation of articles, interest group postings, and even excerpts from books (usually by members). I just finished the Fall issue which included articles on apple grafting, jujubes, growing wolfberries, and an excerpt from Grow Fruit Naturally... by Lee Reich. Every issue is full of reports on how members are doing with whatever cultivar they hope to grow in their particular backyard. And there are lots of professionals reporting too, commercial orchardists, and university researchers. (Lots of folks had a tough couple of years, so we didn't feel so bad about our poor half dead trees.) And this is all nuts and bolts, no pie-eyed generalities (or very few).
There are interest groups for all the usual suspects--apples, peaches, pears--and some unusual ones. There is a huge amount of interest in fruits like autumn olive, hawthorn, honeylocust, chestnut, pawpaw, persimmon and haskap (lonicera caerulea) among others. (Some of the groups are in need of chairs--the primary requirement is "interest in the fruit...and desire to learn more about it.")
There is an annual conference--Ohio in 2013. We haven't made it yet, but are hoping to. This year's was in Saskatoon and in addition to the many talks, attendees toured local growers and the research facilities at the U of SK.
I get 2 or 3 emails a day from the listserv, and the topics cover a wildly diverse amount of material, usually about fruit, but occasionally chickens or something else will pop in--most everything has some relevance. Weather always, apple butter recipes, and what better fertilizer than well composted poultry manure?!
There are other perks too--access to seed, or scions or bud wood for grafting, The Fruit Grafter's Handbook is available to members as a pdf download.
NAFEX is a wonderful resource, especially for those fairly new to growing. And it helped the fellow hoping to found a local fruit growers group find us.
Information about joining NAFEX can be found at nafex.org