Our original Fort Ross Gravenstein scions come from Terry and Carolyn Harrison, who rescued scions in the 1980s from a tree created by the family of Jack Barlow of Sebastopol in the earlier 1900s, from the last tree from the Russian colonists’ orchard at the Ft Ross colony north of Bodega Bay 1812-1841. There is some controversy as to the provenance of our stock. The question is whether our scions came from an original Russian planting, or a subsequent planting. It is quite likely that even if our stock is from a subsequent planting, that planting was made from scions grafted from an original tree. I come from a farming family that would wash, hang-to-dry, and re-use off-brand Saran Wrap, and recycle the wax paper from inside cereal boxes to wrap the kids’ sandwiches for school, so I know how frugal farmers are, so we suspect that the subsequent farmer would have used his own scions rather than buy some! 😉
“A prior year’s sale featured some Gravenstein trees grafted from scions donated by Nancy Conzett -a long time volunteer at Ft Ross- from the Ft Ross collection of the Call family home in Ft Ross. Nancy’s story: “The Call’s great-nephew Frederick Kaye Tomlin -my lifelong friend whom later became the unoffiicial historian of Ft Ross- provided me with a Gravenstein tree at the time of the replanting of the Ft Ross orchard in 1984. From what I know, scions from an existing tree in the orchard at the Fort were taken -possibly by John Smith (who lived in the Sacto. area…now deceased)- because the object of the replanting of the orchard was to trasnplant young trees next to the older ones that were on their way out. The 1984 scions were likely taken from a tree from the replanting of the 1811 Russian orchard done by the Call family in the 1930s.” Laura Call Carr, whose father’s ranch encompassed Fort Ross in 1900, recalled eating Gravenstein apples from the Russian plantings. The 1910 Apple Show in Sebastopol featured Gravs from trees at Fort Ross that were still bearing fruit after almost 100 years. (source: August 2001 in the Sonoma West Times & News). Gravensteins are in danger of becoming broadly extinct because of many reasons, the most observable of which is their difficulty to harvest. The apples have short stems and the trees produce ripe apples at different times throughout the harvest season. They are also extremely delicate and perishable. As a result of these complications, the Gravenstein market often falls short to the Red Delicious. This fruit is also losing out because of an alarming loss of land, as many orchards are being converted to vineyards or rural estates. During the past six decades, Sonoma County’s Gravenstein orchards have declined by almost 7,000 acres and are currently down to 960 acres. They do make great backyard trees for fresh fruit” !