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Orchard History

Way back in 1996...

...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" in 1997 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 CRFG Community Orchard is located off Highland Drive on the Cal Poly Campus. It is just up the street from the Crops Unit (building 17) at the corner of Mt. Bishop and Highland Drive.

What Happened In 1999?

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!

Originally the ownership of each tree was to stay with the person who planted it, and that person would be responsible for pruning, tasting, and serving on the orchard committee. Because it is a demonstration orchard, the fruit wasn't owned by the owner of the tree, and people were not supposed to take fruit. Instead, they were to eat it in the orchard and record in the kiosk the taste, smell, color, sugar, acid, etc.

What Happened In 2000?

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.

What Happened In 2001?

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!!

Former Cal Poly students planting Burchell trees.


Planting more Burchell trees!


A sweet reward!

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.

What Happened In 2003?

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.


Mulch = Happy Trees!

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.


Joe Sabol gets an idea for a kiosk, and Roger Eberhardt volunteers for construction.




The kiosk and some of its friends.

What Happened In 2006?

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.


Marv, Pet, Bill & students' fab tree signs

What Happened In 2007?

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.

What Happened In 2016?

The orchard in March, after pruning and before several workdays by Chapter members

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!


Chapter members pruning the orchard on February 6, 2016.  Photo by Mel Smith


Work party pausing for photo during orchard cleanup on July 30, 2016
Photo by Joe Sabol

What Happened In 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.  More pictures in the January 2017 Newsletter.

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.

Sign honoring Susan and Chuck was made by Elaine Rathbun.


Tucker Schmidt, Greg Cady, and Keri Schmidt plant Art Henzgen's memorial tree.

What Happened In 2018?

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," which you can find in our January 2018 Newsletter.  Thank you Dr. Garner!

Orchard Workday: April 28, 2018
We got a lot done... as Joe said, no slack, no breaks, no strikes!  Larry donated and we planted three trees: a Pink Wampee, an Allspice, and a Kaffir plum.


Volunteers also pulled weeds, cut off sprouts on stumps and trees, weed whacked, dug out small poison oak plants, thinned fruit, cleaned the kiosk and restocked it with updated orchard maps. See pictures in our April 2018 Newsletter.

Orchard Workday: June 30, 2018

Fence repair! 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 and got 'er done!

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.


Tree height was brought down on several trees. The orchard co-managers' two 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 dragon fruit 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.


Dr. Garner answers questions from onlookers about pruning peach and nectarine trees.


Larry and Manny plant an Allspice tree.


New toolshed built by Roger Eberhardt, Manny, and Dara.

What Happened In 2019?

Orchard Work Day: April 20, 2019

Seven 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.

Orchard Work Day: June 29, 2019

Gabriel donated and we planted three new figs: a Violette de Bordeaux, a Panache, and a grafted Desert King and Mission.


An honorary plaque for Joe Sabol found a new home in our orchard. It was removed from its old home when one of the Cal Poly agriculture orchards which was raised to make room for a new building. We installed it near the Dapple Dandy tree, the first tree to be planted in the orchard and a favorite of many longtime members.

See the July 2019 Newsletter for more pictures and details about this work day.

Orchard Work Day: October 26, 2019

18 people showed up and knocked out all the work by 11am!


Weeds were whacked, fallen tree signs rehung, broken drip emitters repaired or replaced, area under sycamore tree cleaned up and trash removed.


Jujubes, Pettingill and Red Fuji apples, and a few Asian pears were ripe and enjoyed!


Manny and Gabriel plant a Panache and a grafted Desert King and Mission fig tree.

New pipes for the water supply.


Seth, Manny, and Joe pay their respects to a great man.


Mark and Gabriel plant a Violette de Bordeaux fig tree.

What Happened In 2020?

January started off with a bang with Dean Harrell as our guest pruner.  Dean is an instructor at Cuesta College, North County.  After teaching folks the basics of pruning, he lead the group out to the orchard for some hands-on pruning experience.  See photos and learn more about that afternoon in our January 2020 newsletter.


In March, the Covid-19 pandemic's social-distancing requirements reduced the number of meetings and group work sessions we were able to have in the orchard. At the time we thought the pandemic would last only a few months, but it turned out to be several years.

In April the Englert family held its first Easter Egg Hunt in the orchard.  Story begins in the April 2020 newsletter on page 3. 

Also, the post in the back of the orchard rotted out, and the rear gate came crashing down.  Manny, Adela, and Dara bridged the open gap with fencing to help keep the deer out until Cal Poly staff have time to repair the post and gate.  See story on page 5.

In May we planted 3 new trees donated by Larry Hollis: a Russian Quince, a guava, and a paw paw.  In addition, a few folks go together to do some maintenance in the orchard.  Mark Woelfe installed a new gate post for the entrance gate since the old post had rotted out.  The wheelbarrow got a new, airless tire. See pictures and read about other tasks in the May 2020 newsletter, starting on page 4.

September's newsletter tells about deer sightings, broken branches, and broken water valves.  See article starting on page 3.

See November's newsletter starting on page 8 for an update of the year's fruit production, a synopsis of trees planted this year, review of orchard maintenance, future plans for the orchard, a list of its trees with the best-tasting fruit, and a list of trees slated for removal either due to sickness, poor tasting fruit, or no fruit production.

This was the year the orchard yielded its first dragon fruit!  Check out orchard co-manager Jesse Englert's article to learn more and to see pictures of this beautiful purple fruit in the December 2020 newsletter.  Jesse's article starts on page 4.

What's Happening In 2021?

This year we had to remove the first-ever tree planted in the orchard, the much-loved Dapple Dandy Pluot, which had been stricken by gummosis.  Gophers went overland in their quest to kill the newly planted Violette de Bordeaux.  Carmela and Mark removed many invasive weeds and grasses, and educated us on what they are.  Orchard volunteers are cautioned to wear long sleeves and pants as well as insect repellent to avoid the possibility of being bitten by dastardly little flies that lack common decency.

A new Flavor Granade Pluot was donated and planted by the Englert family in March.  See the March newsletter for charming pictures and details, starting on page 4.  Jesse also tells us about the newly planted Goldenberry starting on page 5.  Sadly, items which had existed in the orchard for years if not decades were stolen from the orchard.  The orchard ladder, the apple-shaped entrance sign welcoming folks to the orchard were stolen.  Cal Poly police were notified and took are report, but the items were never found.  See page 9.

A beautiful new swing was added to the orchard in April!  Jesse Englert shows us how he made this swing from oak wine barrel staves.  See the April 2021 newsletter, page 5.  Now scroll to page 9 of the newsletter where you can read the month's "Orchard Update," which tells about the two new trees donated by Richard Schmidt: a Delight Cherry-Plum, and a Sprite Cherry-Plum with a Delight Cherry-Plum graft!  Also, we try to save the Minnie Cherry-Plum from death-by-gummosis by shaving off the infected bark.  (Update a year later: so far, so good.)

In the May 2021 newsletter, we learn that Dixon Smith donated two beautiful passiflora to the orchard (page 3).  Then scroll to page 5 to see how we built a bioractor for the orchard and filled it. Why would you want to build a bioreactor?  See the February 2021 newsletter for our Zoom meeting with guest speaker Tim LaSalle on Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management (BEAM).

The first “in-person” gathering since the Corona-19 Virus pandemic hit, our July meeting was a welcome venture back into the way things used to be, with the added appreciation for the things we took for granted little more than a year before.  We did 3 hours of orchard maintenance in the morning, had lunch at noon, and a plant exchange in the afternoon.  That morning the orchard kiosk got a new roof thanks to Tom Sheldon.  Relive all these happy moments via our July 2021 newsletter, starting on page 13.  Read about the finishing of the kiosk roof in the August 2021 newsletter starting on page 8.

In September we snagged some free chicken wire off of Craigslist to protect our trees from voracious deer.  See the September 2021 newsletter page 4.

What's Happening In 2022?

A summary of the orchard in 2021 is available in the February 2021 newsletter starting on page 9.

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