Tom Brown, the “Apple Hunter”: preserving heritage apples

This man helped save over 1000 varieties of apples, cultivating part of his country's agricultural heritage in his orchard. A gigantic undertaking aimed at leaving future generations with a wealth to be preserved again and again

They call him the “Apple Hunter” because of his immense passion, although he spent his career doing something entirely different. Tom Brown, a retired chemical engineer from North Carolina, has dedicated himself to the cultivation and care of apple trees since the late 1990s.

Through extensive research, Brown learned about varieties of apples that had almost disappeared. Some of these apples seemed legendary—fruits that grandparents and great-grandparents once enjoyed, with unique sizes, colors, textures, and flavors that are nearly lost today.

After finding an orchard in Clemmons to work the land, Tom Brown began his mission: to plant and recover Appalachian apple varieties. Since then, he has rediscovered over 1,000 varieties. Traveling to find forgotten orchards, Brown managed to create a small-scale cultivation initially.

The Junaluska Apple

Among his trees are those bearing the Junaluska apple, a fruit said to have been consumed by the Cherokee Native Americans. This precious variety was rediscovered in 2001 thanks to Brown’s extensive research, leading to the identification of three Junaluska apple trees in the United States.

His orchard, which he proudly calls a “heritage,” is aptly named Heritage Apples. It features both common and rare apple trees, some of which few people had ever heard of before. On his website, interested individuals can purchase his trees and contribute to the search for even more apple varieties.


Community involvement

Anyone can help by asking older people in their area or sharing information about apples they know with Tom Brown. Every piece of information is invaluable for expanding his inventory. For Tom Brown, cultivating apple varieties means preserving the richness of his land—a project he feels deeply about, but one that truly involves the entire community. The grafted trees are returned to their original counties.

“These old apples are part of our agricultural heritage, but they are rapidly disappearing forever. Trees are being cut down, and the elderly who remember the apple names are passing away. The window of time to find and save these wonderful apples is rapidly closing. The results of this effort are presented here. The apple trees are saved so that future generations can enjoy them,” Tom Brown wrote on his website.

Source: Applesearch

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