Monday, February 28, 2011

Fruit School with Professor Barkslip

Bill Whipple's business card should be a pear. Yep, that's right. A real, actual pear.

You see, when I first met Bill last September, it was mid-day at the Heritage Harvest Festival and I'd already chatted with approximately 3 million people. My brain was fried and my capacity for meeting new folks and actually remembering them was pretty much tapped out.

And then Bill walked over.  Granted, it could have been his striped suspenders that made him unforgettable, but most likely it was the crazy delicious pear, grown organically on his land in West Virginia, that he sliced up and shared with us. It was the most amazing piece of fruit I've ever tasted: juicy, tender, fresh and flavorful. I've never had anything like it. Which is why I think he should ditch the cardboard cards and just carry pears.

The best part about this whole story, though, is that Bill, a.k.a. Professor Barkslip, will be joining us in April to teach a two-day intensive Fruit School class. Now you can grow your own business cards, too!

If you're interested in growing fruit in your home or community garden, thinking about starting an orchard or adding fruit trees to your farm, you should not miss these classes. With an emphasis on organic production, Bill will take you through tree care, pruning, rooting, and grafting, and you'll leave with enough plant material to practically pay for the class.  These workshops are perfect for new beginners and old hands alike. You will learn:
  • basic skills and pruning strategies to care for low-input home, farm and community orchards
  • hands-on experience rooting and grafting, plus take-home cuttings and seed starts
  • skills to convert ornamental trees into fruit producing mega-giants in three years
Professor Barkslip's Fruit School
Date: April 16 & 17, 9am - 5pm
Location: Educational Farm at Maple Hill
Cost: BEFORE MARCH 19: $60/day, $120/weekend. AFTER MARCH 19: $70/day, $140/weekend
Register: or (434) 286-2176

It is recommended that you sign up for the full weekend as the material builds upon itself, but if you can't, here's the breakdown:

April 16, 2011
Fruit tree care and pruning workshop (for the home, farm, and public space):
This class will be half talk and half walk and will cover site analysis and selection, proper tree selection, orchard floor prep and care, and caring for the established orchard. Like all the classes at fruit school, emphasis will be on using organic methods. Bring your favorite pruners and saws if you have them for the hands on portion of the class!

Plant rooting and propagation (for the low budget fruit enthusiast):
This class emphasizes low tech, organic methods of plant production though seeds, layering, rooting, stooling, and division. This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to bring the nutritional abundance of plants into your life. Great activity ideas for kids as well!

April 17, 2011
Bench grafting and cloning around:
Learn to graft your own fruit trees! This is nothing short of magical when you learn to stick a branch of one tree onto another and it grows. Discussed and illustrated will be the whip and tongue, and the cleft grafts, rootstock varieties, seedlings versus clones, aftercare, and setting up your own nursery for income diversification. Included in the class is one rootstock, choice of several varieties of budwood, and aftercare materials. There will be plenty of rootstock for sale to do multiple grafts if desired. You are encouraged to bring your own varieties of apple tree cuttings to graft or to swap and share with other participants.

Top working and advanced grafting (Have your flower and eat it too!):
This class will hurl you headlong into the world of top working countless varieties onto existing trees. Within three years you can have a barren ornamental tree in production with 40 varieties! We’ll learn about compatibility, timing, and the world of countless grafting techniques including chip and T- budding, side grafting, rind graft. We’ll touch on festooning and arborsmithing as well. Also emphasized is the essential aftercare of the top worked tree.

Sponsored by Local Food Hub and Blue Ridge Permaculture Network.

image credit: bmann/Creative Commons

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