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Virginias Apple Orchards
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Cultivars of the earth are the most valuable citizens.
They are the most vigorous, the most independent. . .and they are tied to their country and wedded to its
liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.
— Thomas Jefferson...epistle to John Jay, August 1785
Thomas Jeffersons Virginia
irginia gave this country its greatest gift in the person of Thomas
Jefferson. This consumate statesman, who authored the Declaration of
Independence, was also a gardener, farmer and scientist. By 1814, he had
planted over one thousand fruit trees in the South Orchard at Monticello.
Hot, humid summers and a rich, deep soil nurtured by consistantly rainy
winters made the climate of central Virginia ideal for growing apples.
Although hundreds of varieties were available to colonial farmers, Jefferson
concentrated on only four cultivars: Hewe's Crab and Taliaferro (for their
cider production), and Newtown Pippin and Esopus Spitzenberg (for their fancy
dessert qualities). The Taliaferro was Jefferson's personal favourite. He
called it the best cyder apple existing. . .nearer to the silky Champagne than
any other. Because this variety has completely disappeared from modern-day
cultivation, it is sometimes referred to as Monticello's mystery apple.
While travelling in Europe, Jefferson compared the fruits of that continent to
those of Anerica. They have no apple to compare with our Newtown Pippin, he
wrote from Paris. Known later as the Albemarle Pippin, this variety was
exported to England, thereby supporting a major industry in Jefferson's home
Today Virginia ranks sixth among the apple producing states. There are over
250 commercial growers in Virginia; they utilize some 18,000 acres of land.
Orchards can be found in the rich countryside of Albemarle and Rappahannock
counties; the mountainous region of the northern Shenandoah Valley; in Roanoke
Valley; in the southwestern counties of Patrick and Carroll. Virgina apples are exported to markets in over two dozen states and twenty
countries. Much of the state's crop is also sold for processing and made into products
such as apple juice, apple butter, applesauce, and the ever-popular apple
Production now is concentrated in the northwest part of the state, with about half of the state's total crop coming from Frederick county alone. According to figures fron the Virginia Apple Growers Association, seven counties in the north account for approxmately 8 million bushels annually of the 9 million bushel annual total for the entire state. The counties are: Frederick 4 million bushels; Clarke 1.2 million bushels; Rockingham 798 thousand; Shenandoah 757 thousand; Nelson 637 thousand; Albemarle 359 thousand; and Rappahannock 350 thousand.
While Virginia may rank sixth among the states in overall apple production, she ranks first in the hearts of those who are fascinated by the romance and history of American apple cultivation.