Back about 70 years ago, Wise County was the third largest apple producer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but with changes in land use, most of those orchards were lost. Today, only two commercial-sized orchard remain, and one of those is managed by the Department of Corrections, so all the apples are used in house. The last truly commercial orchard is owned by Roy and Dianna Mullins and featured on an Appalshop film, “Apple Wise.”
Each February, I meet with Roy, who takes me through the orchard to cut scionwood for our annual apple grafting workshop. Years ago, Roy made a promise to provide the Extension office (and others who need it) with collecting scion. I’m able to leave the orchard with a dozen or so varieties, including Ginger Gold, Cortland, Mountain Boomer, Winter Banana, Summer Rambo and more.
Many of the participants at our workshop have stories and memories of particular varieties: their grandparents had one of those in their yard, or the best pie they ever had featured so and so.
Through this year’s workshop, 100 trees were grafted. Hopefully, there will be a high rate of success, and these trees will begin bearing fruit in a few years, assuming they survive rabbits, deer and weed trimmers.