CRFG Demonstration Orchard HistoryOrchard | Orchard History | Orchard Report
The CRFG Community Orchard is located off Highland Drive on the Cal Poly Campus. Thanks to Joe Sabol, Art DeKleine and John Crowe for the following history.
Way back in 1997......the Central Coast Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers hosted the state meeting, a "Festival of Fruits." A profit of just over $1500 was made. Co-chairs Jay Ruskey and Steve McShane created a committee and after much deliberation, debate, and discussion, the decision was made to "partner up" with Cal Poly and create a "community/demonstration orchard" for all to enjoy and share. The $1500 donation was made to the Crops Department and our partnership was formed with an informal contract signed by both parties.
Dr. Robert McNeil and Dr. Paul Fountain, Crop Science Department, identified a small corner of the new lemon orchard to be prepared for the planting of the deciduous trees. The location was on Highland Ave. just west of Stenner Creek and was less than one acre in size. A Highland Avenue gate was installed with a combination lock which allows all members of the CRFG to enter the orchard at any time.
The very first tree planted in January of 1999 was a Dapple Dandy Pluot, donated from Jim Patterson from Bay Laurel Nursery. This was a Dave Wilson tree, created by Floyed Zaiger of Modesto. The entire CRFG chapter was present along with Dr. Paul Fountain for this symbolic planting. After the ceremony, the tree was removed and Joe Sabol took care of the potted tree to be planted again the next year when the orchard was ready!
The next winter, Steve Sherman and the farm crew installed an irrigation system and the area was fenced to keep out the deer. After several phone calls and a visit to the Dave Wilson Nursery in Hickman, they donated a total of 54 trees to be planted in the spring of 2000. The S.L.O. Farm Bureau was planning a "farm tour" that spring and was invited to assist with the planting of these 54 trees. Over 200 people were present on this historic day!!! The original Dapple Dandy tree was planted "again" and this time by 5 Cal Poly Ag Ambassadors. Laura Lopez worked closely with Dr. McNeil to design the orchard as part of her senior project.
A Big Day in the Life of the Orchard: notes from March 17th, 2001
Our CRFG Community Orchard took a big leap forward on Saturday, St. Patrick's Day as 24 more fruit trees were planted. These low chill, high quality trees were donated by Tom Burchell of the Burchell Nursery in Oakdale at the Annual Scion Exchange and Grafting Meeting at Joe Sabol's when Tom was the guest speaker in February.
Members of the Central Coast Chapter, Agricultural Ambassadors and other members of the Cal Poly Community planted trees following Joe Sabol's expert instructions and guidance: grafts facing north to make them stronger against the wind, holes dug and back filled with 50% soil, roots placed carefully in position with a little water added, then filled and tamped and a nice basin made and more water....what more could a tree desire! Several "experimental" plantings were made with 2 trees in a hole, 3 trees in a hole, and 4 in one hole. These plantings were made using the strong advice of Ed Laivo of Dave Wilson Nursery. Then Joe made us all leave before doing the serious pruning (it hurts so much) that will make them stronger trees in the future.
Two more highlights of the day were Dr. Solomon's "out of this world" breakfast burritos, hot and delicious, followed by Joe passing out the taste treat Pink Lady Apples! What fun! It was a beautiful morning and members showing up to help were Chairman Chuck Atlee, Joe Sabol, Ken Solomon, Paul & Marie Moyer, Barbara Mathews, some others and a whole group of enthusiastic Cal Poly students.
Everyone is invited to visit the Community Orchard to watch it grow, pull a weed or two and some day pick some fresh fruit!!
Launnie Ginn, Crop Science Technician, and his crew took care of the orchard, irrigating, spraying, and general management. In the spring of 2001, Jennifer Young, a Cal Poly student, took over certain responsibilities in the orchard, removing suckers, thinning fruit, and adding more permanent identification to each tree. The first fruit, an early peach from a Dave Wilson tree, was harvested on Saturday morning, June 9, 2001 by Joe Sabol and Jennifer Young.
Every year during our January meeting, we invite a "guest pruner" to provide us all with a demonstration followed by a pruning session by the membership and guests. In January of 2003, we counted over 140 members and guests in attendance at this demonstration and pruning event!
In the spring of 2003, Mr. Don Popham, working for the Cal Poly Grounds Department, began to deliver truckloads of mulch to our orchard. Members were encouraged to mulch "their tree," and soon Marv and Pet Daniels organized a series of early Sunday morning "work days" to spread the mulch, trim the neighboring trees, clean up all the weeds, and develop a picnic area. These workdays really changed the complexion of the orchard.
In July, Mr. Gary Ketcham, Superintendent of the College Farm, took a cutting torch to the "bridge cables" that were attached to the three "dead men" at the entrance to our orchard. This removed a serious hazard to members and guests as they took the path to our orchard.
On August 16, 2003, we installed a nice kiosk to welcome our members and provide information on various chores, concerns, and fruit production. Mr. Roger Eberhardt, our Co-Chair, was the master craftsman who constructed our Kiosk. This installation and dedication was attended and assisted by the CRFG Board of Directors at their quarterly meeting.
In the spring of 2006, the Orange County Nursery donated 12 more bare root fruit trees. Steve Veyna, one of the owners, brought the trees over from Tulare. We planted the trees in spots where we had a weak or dead tree and expanded the orchard to the east.
In the spring of 2006, Marv and Pet Daniels connected up with Bill Brandt of the Los Angeles CRFG Chapter and Bill's students made individual wooden signs to be attached to every tree, indicating the variety of the tree. Marv painted in the routered names with black ink so they could be read from a distance. This was a major improvement to our orchard as the earlier tags were hard to read, or got lost.
In June of 2007, Mr. Clifford Chapman of Shell Beach donated $100 which was used to purchase new garden hand tools for the orchard. Two hoes, two rakes, and a round-point shovel were purchased and left in the orchard for members and visitors to use when picking fruit or visiting the orchard.
In 2015, Orchard Manager David Gurney started collecting information about how the trees were fruiting. You can find his results in the Annual Orchard Report.
A row of dragonfruit was planted in the back row of the orchard.
In early winter a Smyrna quince and a jujube were planted, replacing other types of trees which had died or were not producing.
A many-hands-on pruning day took place on February 6th, and several workdays in the late winter and early spring.
A dozen or so workers gathered together on Saturday morning of July 30, 2016 to weed, rake, fill holes, and generally spruce up the orchard for the upcoming Festival of Fruit 2016.
Marv and Pet Daniels made and hung new signs for all 70+ trees in the orchard!
Pruning Workshop January 14, 2017
Following pruning presentations by Les Ferreira, Art DeKleine, Larry Hollis, and Joe Sabol, attendees walked over to the orchard to get hands-on pruning experience. Breaking up into groups with an expert pruner heading each, attendees were able to ask questions, and put their pruners to work on apple trees in the orchard.
Orchard Workday: April 29, 2017
Over a dozen volunteers performed maintenance in the orchard by pulling weeds, weed whacking, thinning fruit, cutting off dead or diseased wood, and repairing drip lines.
Memorial Tree Planted for Susan and "Chuck" Atlee: April 29, 2017
A Saijo Persimmon was planted in memory of Susan and "Chuck" Atlee. The persimmon tree was donated by Bay Laurel Nursery in Los Osos. During the ceremony Elaine Rathbun shared some of Susan and Chuck Atlee's accomplishments. Honoring Chuck's love of cupcakes and fruit, Elaine made special cupcakes for the ceremony, as well as a sign expressing respects.
Orchard Workday, July 1, 2017
A dozen or so people gathered to perform maintenance on the orchard in preparation for the Central Coast Chapter July meeting: the first-ever "formal" fruit tasting event in the orchard! Weeds were whacked, trees were trimmed, the kiosk was cleaned, and the back fence by the lemon grove was mended to help ward off the deer. Sycamore leaves were raked up, spare drip line hoses were neatly coiled and stacked.
Memorial Tree Planted for Art Henzgen: July 15, 2017
A beautiful multi-grafted tree was donated by CCC CRFG members June and Grace Gelling. The tree was planted in memory of Art Henzgen during a small ceremony this morning.
Pruning Workshop January 13, 2018
The gracious Dr. Lauren Garner, Professor of Fruit Science at Cal Poly, helped us out in a pinch when – due to circumstances beyond his control [mudslides and the ensuing closure of Hwy 101 for several weeks] - Tom Spellman was unable to make the trek up the coast and speak on Backyard Fruit Tree Pruning. We were so very fortunate that Dr. Garner was free. She taught us her Top Tips for Successful Fruit Tree Pruning. Thank you Dr. Garner!!!
Orchard Workday: April 28, 2018
Joe Sabol summarizes this maintenance day [with editor's additions in brackets]:
A very productive work day this morning!!!
Well attended. [12 volunteers! Dick is not shown in pictures below, but he was here!]
Dedicated workers (we got a lot done... no slack, no breaks, no strikes).
[A dozen volunteers performed maintenance in the orchard by planting new trees, pulling weeds, cutting off sprouts on stumps and trees, weed whacking, digging out small poison oak plants, thinning fruit, cleaning and restocking the kiosk with updated orchard maps]
Safety first (weed whackers all wore glasses, no chainsaw work)
Educational (we shared stories of thinning, weeding, watering)
Food...(Thanks for the bananas and mandarines!!)
New folk... Lucas and Jessie & Maggie came to help... first timers ... we welcomed them
Hats protect skin... Look at photo of Susanne... our hat model ... covers ears, nose, neck!!
New tree planting (see photo of Manny planting Larry's donation... Allspice Tree!!!)
[Larry donated three trees today: a Pink Wampee, an Allspice, and a Kaffir plum!]
Water was available! Orchard looks good...green, productive, wet!!
Orchard Workday: June 30, 2018
We had a very fruitful(!) 3 hour maintenance workday. Deer and humans had created holes and pushed down fences on all sides of the orchard. To make the fence repair job more challenging, one of the sections runs along a stand of very healthy and aggressively growing poison oak. But volunteers deployed their mad fence repair skills! By the time the workday was done, the fence had been repaired. The orchard co-managers are very happy!
But wait, there's more: trees along the outside perimeter of the fence were trimmed back, squirrel holes were filled, weeds were pulled and weed-whacked, dead wood was pruned, and the tree height was brought down on several trees (our 2 year goal for the orchard is to reduce the height of all fruit trees to allow fruit to be picked without ladders). A new dripline run was also extended out to several dragonfruit along the Highland perimeter or the orchard and the Allspice tree that was planted at the last maintenance workday.
Orchard Work Day: September 22, 2018
Lots of activity today, including removing a huge brush pile, finishing installing the new tool
shed, planting of new dragon fruit plants, trimming, weed pulling, jackfruit sampling, and topped
off by a delicious lunch provided by Lassen's Natural Foods and Vitamins in SLO.
See the September 2018 Newsletter for more pictures and details about this work day!
Orchard Work Day: April 20, 2019
7 people showed up for the work day. When we arrived, we discovered that
Mark Woelf had mowed between the rows of trees just two days before! Most of our work had already been done!
In addition, Cal Poly replaced the old leaky water supply with a brand spankin' new one.
See the April 2019 Newsletter for more pictures and details about this work day!
There have been several trees planted in memory of former members of CRFG. These trees have a nice plaque in front of them, commemorating the lives of these dedicated people.
Chuck and Susan Atlee - Saijo persimmon planted 2017
Chuck and Susan were from Pennsylvania. Much of their life they worked on international projects. They met while Chuck was in his senior year at Penn State. He served in the Navy during WWII. After college Chuck went to Mexico where he volunteered on an American Friends Service Committee project. When Susan graduated she joined him in Mexico where he proposed to her. They were married in Pennsylvania and came to California for their ’honeymoon.’ Chuck quipped that their ‘honeymoon’ lasted 52 years.
Chuck attended UC Davis where he received his doctorate. He worked for the UC Agricultural Extension Service in Santa Cruz for 10 years. He and Susan with their 2 children, Barbara and Robert, moved to Guatemala in 1965 to work for USAID introducing new farming methods and crops to farmers there. Political unrest forced them to leave in 1969. Chuck joined the faculty at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and taught Crop Science. After retiring form Cal Poly Chuck and Susan traveled to Costa Rica and served as the first faculty members of EARTH University. In retirement Chuck and Susan volunteered for Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA) and traveled to Thailand, Southern Sumatra, Indonesia, Burundi and Chuck traveled to several countries in Central and South America.
Chuck and Susan were avid bicycle riders and toured through several countries in Europe with their children and were very actively involved in local bicycle clubs here on the Central Coast. With their son, Robert, they helped organize the Wildflower Century Ride. Chuck and Susan were founding members of the Central Coast Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. Chuck served as a Co-Chairperson. They were actively involved in the chapter for many years. Chuck taught grafting and was an excellent resource for members.
Mehe Samano - Dapple Supreme Pluot planted 2016
Thank you, Scott Oliver, for this memorial to Mehe.
Born in a small village outside Seoul, South Korea, Mehe came to America as a young girl. Raised near Lincoln, Nebraska she was an avid hunter, loved to fish and developed a passion for gardening. Gardening remained an enjoyment all her life. At the age of 24 years old, Mehe joined the United States Air Force and served her Country for six years. She became a linguist, spoke fluent Korean. She was stationed in Germany and South Korea, traveling also on assignment to Egypt, Morocco, Spain and Istanbul. She was honorably discharged with the rank of Staff Sargent. Mehe was recognized by her superiors for her leadership and patriotism. Mehe loved her time in the military and it was a part of her life she enjoyed talking about. At the young age of 50 years old, Mehe earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Columbia College. She worked briefly at the San Luis Obispo County Juvenile Facility.
Mehe joined the Central Coast chapter of CRFG in 2008. She was an active member, quick to volunteer when needed, always participating. She contributed articles and recipes to the chapter’s newsletter. (See Mehe's Rice Salad recipe on page 5 in the September-October 2011 Leaflet newsletter.) It was here she learned to graft and prune. She had a willingness to ask questions, try new things, experiment. She was well liked. With an infectious smile and upbeat attitude people gravitated her way. She was engaging, a quick study. Mehe planted her first tree in 2009, a Katy apricot, by the end of February she had grafted 5 different scions to her tree and her love and fascination with grafting was cemented.
In 2012, Mehe relocated to Maricopa, Arizona. This move brought special challenges to her love of fruit trees. Unfazed however, over the next year she planted 18 low chill fruit trees in her small backyard. Apples, Peaches, Apricots, Asian pear, figs, Pomegranates. On those 18 trees she grafted over 47 different varieties. She practiced a backyard orchard culture, keeping her trees pruned low, planting several varieties with similar rootstock in the same hole, grafting. Mehe was proud of her success with Mangos, Persimmons, bananas, all over three years old when she passed. The desert environment was not a deterrent. She joined the Arizona chapter of CRFG and became a board member. She served two terms as the chapter’s vice president.
Mehe became a Pinal County Master Gardener that same year. She managed the demonstration orchard at the Maricopa Agricultural Center on the grounds of the University of Arizona extension near her home. She brought new life to a failing orchard. Reviving established fruit trees, introducing many new varieties. She used her skills to educate other master gardeners throughout the County, the community and numerous like-minded groups in grafting, propagation, pruning and orchard maintenance. Mehe was often a guest instructor at Central Arizona College. Mehe was a friend to all, a mentor to many and will be missed. Her family is humbled, yet overjoyed by the planting of this tree in her honor. She is missed but never forgotten.
Thomas Ruehr - Multi-grafted apple planted 2010
Thomas Ruehr (1943-2009) was born in Ravenna, Ohio, in 1943. His family raised vegetables which they sold at local markets. He was active in 4-H. He earned his bachelor’s at The Ohio State University where he met his future wife, Evelyn. He received his master’s degree at Iowa State University in 1970, and his Ph.D. at Colorado State University in 1976: all degrees in agronomy and soil science. He began teaching at Cal Poly in the Soil Science Department in 1994. He was the recipient of the university's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1980, the Petoseed Agriculture Faculty Award in 1996, and a Teaching Award of Merit from the NACTA in 1994. He was a founding member of Cal Poly's Sustainable Agriculture Resource Consortium.
Tom taught a variety of courses, mostly related to plant nutrition, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, and bioremediation. He also team-taught courses in global food systems, human values and ethics in agriculture, world food politics, and the global environment. He conducted research in agriculture, food systems, and bioremediation, was awarded many grants and authored many publications and presentations. He also reviewed many articles and books for his profession, and worked in curriculum development.
His passion was conducting educational and training sessions, consulting with or doing research for those making practical application in all areas of ag and ag business. This interest and demand for his services took him all over United States and into Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, China and South Africa where Evelyn often traveled with him. He routinely donated his consulting and speaking fees to an annual scholarship fund for junior soil science students at Cal Poly. A scholarship was established upon his death and continues to be given annually.
He is survived by his wife, Evelyn Burky Ruehr, two children, Denise Kaub and Brent Ruehr, and their families.
Clytia Chambers - Tree planted 2008
Clytia, a true pioneer with CRFG, turned an exotic fruit newsletter into the fantastic bimonthly magazine, The Fruit Gardener. Chambers, a public relations executive, had great editing skills and "a mind like a steel trap," Ron Couch, who succeeded her as editor in 2000, told the Los Angeles Times.
Her interest in rare fruits arose from helping her husband tend orchards near Fallbrook, California. At one time they tended more than 40 varieties of sapotes!!!
Chambers, who died on February 20, 2007, was survived by her husband, three children, three stepchildren, five grandchildren, and a sister. Two of her daughters came to be with us when we planted the cherry tree in her honor. She is the only person recognized with a memorial tree that was not an active member of our local chapter. In some ways, she was a silent member of all chapters in the organization. She lived in Pasadena, CA.
Bill Furtick - Tree planted 2008
Bill was a longtime, active member and leader of our chapter and had a rich background in agriculture as the Dean of Agriculture at the University of Hawaii. He hosted a super-memorable chapter meeting at his beautiful home at the top of Prefumo Canyon where we all learned to plant fruit trees on a very steep hillside. He shared his fabulous garden, his love of fruit trees, and it was obvious that his hard work was a labor of love.
Bill was born in Kansas, attended Kansas State University, and received his M.S. and Ph.D. from Oregon State University. Bill loved teaching and was an active leader, serving as president of the "Weed Science Society of America!" He was awarded many honors over his lifetime including "Director Emeritus" by the Association of Western Agricultural Experiment Sanitation Directors.
Bill served as Dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Hawaii and went on to work in Washington D.C. and helped to develop agriculture programs in Taiwan, Italy, Egypt, and in Amman, Jordan. He encouraged our Chapter to "Think Big." He will be missed. His wife, Anne, joined us for the dedication of his tree in the orchard.
Ralph Vorhies - Tree planted 2005
Ralph was a long-time Pomology Professor at Cal Poly and an active member of the early CRFG chapter. He also taught the Bee Keeping Class at Cal Poly. He was a strong and early supporter of establishing the demonstration orchard on the campus.
Gerda Martinez - Tree planted 2004
Gerda was a very active member of our Central Coast Chapter. She hosted a memorable chapter meeting at her home in Paso Robles on a very rainy day. She served as our “secretary” for many years and mailed out the monthly newsletter to all members way back before email and Internet days!!
Richard Shimamoto - Japanese Maple Tree planted 2004
Richard was an active member of the Central Coast Chapter and an excellent gardener. His family donated the beautiful Japanese Maple in his honor and the leaders in the chapter made a big exception, allowing a non-fruiting tree to be planted in his honor. Richard loved the Japanese Maple tree and it was planted in a very special location in the fruit orchard.