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Midwest Fruit Explorers
Garden Club for Backyard Fruit Growers
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Introduction Blueberries North Apple Bed Panaromic View Dwarf Conclusion
Gene's Answers Train a Mini-Dwarf Favorite Apples Map of Backyard

MidFEx, short for Midwest Fruit Explorers, is a non-profit organization of amateur backyard fruit growing enthusiasts.  Most of our members live in the counties surrounding Chicago.

Gene’s 40” apple tree (click to take a tour)
We are crazy about the best tasting, most flavorful fruits that grow well here. We are also interested in growing special, superior and unusual fruits regardless of their appearance or commercial appeal.  This includes little known varieties of apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes and nuts; and more unusual fruits such as the pawpaw, mulberry, persimmon, fig, juneberry, Asian pear, and hardy kiwi.  Our members locate, graft, propagate, test, grow and swap these superior fruiting plants, and then get together and share their knowledge.

MidFEx has a video depository located at midfex at vimeo.com.  Here you will find videos covering topics such as t-bud/chip bud grafting techniques.

Members receive the Grapevine, our periodic newsletter.
The June 2018 Grapevine was distributed to email recipients on 6/15/18 and mailed to USPS recipients on 6/16/18.  The Grapevine is also available on the Members Only page.
  • ***CANCELED*** Summer Pruning Workshop
    Event Description: This will be a follow-up to the winter dormant pruning session led by Al Cosnow on April 8th of this year. These trees had been neglected for several years so attendees will get hand-on experience with renewal training.  Please join us even if you did not attend the April session.

    Date: Sunday, August 19, 2018
    Time: Noon
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • 2018 Harvest Festival  
    Event Description: The Fall Harvest Festival at the Chicago Botanic Gardens is our largest public event, fund raiser, and membership drive all rolled into one.  It’s a fun exciting experience and a great opportunity to socialize and network with MidFExers while learning the virtues of growing your own fruit.  Members bring in fruit for display, and on Sunday starting at 2pm, people are invited to sample the display fruit.  [Harvest Fest]

    MidFEx will be selling wonderful tasting less commonly known apples, fruit butters, and apple cider.  We will also be demonstrating cider pressing and answering any questions you have about growing fruit.

    Styles/Images/bulletList.gif Show Date & Time: Saturday October 20, 2018 10am - 4:30pm
    Styles/Images/bulletList.gif Show Date & Time: Sunday October 21, 2018 10am - 4:30pm
    Location: Chicago Botanic Garden
    Directions: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges.  Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden

    Event Details: This event is open to the public.
  • Apple Cider Social
    Event Description: Cider pressing the old fashioned way with MidFEx’s own cider presses.

    Date: Sunday November 4, 2018 (Note - Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 4)
    Time: 10am - until we run out of apples

    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Recent Events
  • Orchard Tour
    Event Description: Bob and Annie have 2.5 acres with lots of mature oaks and shagbark hickories.  They have 90 or 100 fruit trees mostly on semi-dwarfing rootstocks although the “mini-orchard” has about 25 trees on M27.  Their oldest fruit trees are about 25 years old, and the oldest self-grafted trees are from 1997.  All in all, there are 4 apricots, about 50 semi-dwarf apples, 3 peaches, 3 sweet cherries, 11 Asian pears, 9 European pears, 5 plums, a quince, miscellaneous nut and other fruit trees.  They have 3 trellises with hardy kiwis, 7 varieties of figs, 2 Asian persimmons, 3 mulberries, lots of Nanking cherries and berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, honeyberries, gooseberries) a large vegetable garden, bamboo, and maypops.

    Date: Sunday, August 12, 2018
    Time: 1pm - ?
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Summer Picnic
    Event Description: Good food, good company, and lot’s of talk about growing fruit.  Also, bud grafting demonstration, budwood exchange, silent auction, and tour of member’s orchard.

    Date: Sunday July 15, 2018
    Time: Setup - 10am, Lunch - Noon
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Orchard Tour
    Event Description: Jeff and Pam live on about 1/3 of an acre where they planted their first fruit tree in 1994 ..... and it’s still on the lot producing wonderfully.  Since living at this location, Jeff has systematically removed every native tree from the lot except one large pine tree.  The lot now contains 35 fruit trees (Apple, pear, sweet and sour cherry, peach), 25 blueberry bushes, a strawberry patch, a couple blackberry patches, “the pit,” and watch out, he is moving into the yard of the west side neighbors.  Soon the entire block could be in trouble.

    Jeff has some roots in farming so Jeff and Pam grow some popcorn at a friend’s farm 25 miles west.  Last year they harvested over 700 lbs of popcorn and gave it all away: to family, friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers, and others.  Jeff’s mom was a life-long and Master Gardener and Rosarian in downstate Illinois.  Jeff helped his mother in the garden and eventually handled her fruit trees until he left for graduate school.  Lots of stories to share, hopefully, the cherries, strawberries and blueberries will be ripe for sampling.  

    Date: Saturday June 23, 2018
    Time: 3pm
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Pruning Workshop

    Event Description: MidFEx pruning workshops provide a unique opportunity to hear varying pruning techniques and philosophies discussed and see them demonstrated.

    Date: Sunday April 8, 2018
    Time: Noon
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is reserved for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Pruning Fieldtrip in NW Illinois

    Event Description: MidFEx pruning workshops provide a unique opportunity to hear varying pruning techniques and philosophies discussed and see them demonstrated.

    Date: Wednesday March 28, 2018
    Time: Noon
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is reserved for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Grafting Workshop: Session #2
    Event Description: Find out what grafting fruit tress is all about.  Learn the the whys and hows with experienced grafters.  We will also have an impressive amount of scion wood available for grafting.  The purpose of the grafting workshop is to learn how to graft. Nonmember beginners will learn how to graft selected apple varieties on apple rootstock.  If you’d like more information about grafting see the Grafting Page.

    Date: Sunday March 25, 2018
    Setup Time:  9:00 am to 12 noon.  For MidFEx members only to help setup or if you’ve had any problems with your past grafts or grafting techniques, then let us help. We will have some of our most skilled members on hand from 11:00-12:00 to answer questions and assist you.
    Afternoon Session:  THIS SESSION IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and the less experienced or novice grafter. Please arrive on time. Lecture begins at 1:00 sharp. Workshop will last until about 4:00 pm.
    Location: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.  Go to the Linnaeus Room in the Regenstein Center building.
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges. If you are not a member of the Botanic Gardens you will have to pay the parking fee.  Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden
    Event Details: THE AFTERNOON EVENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, but only the individuals actually grafting fruit trees will be allowed in the grafting classroom.  Friends, spouses, and children are welcome to explore the grounds during the sessions.
    Costs:  Our workshop and guidance are free. However you will need to buy rootstock if you want to take home a tree. We will have dwarfing apple rootstock available. Cost is $5 each with free scion wood for MidFEx members.  Non-members pricing is $5 which includes two pieces of scion wood of their choice. Unless rootstocks were preordered, each attendee will be limited to three (3) rootstocks each.  Grafting requires a very sharp knife with a 2-3 inch blade. Bring your own medium-size pocket knife--we can sharpen it for you if needed, or purchase one at the workshop. Other supplies are available for purchase if you would like to continue honing your grafting skills after the workshop is over.

    Maps and directions
  • Grafting Workshop: Session #1
    Event Description: MidFEx members only.  Find out what grafting fruit tress is all about.  Learn the the whys and hows with experienced grafters.  We will also have an impressive amount of scion wood available for grafting.  If you’d like more information about grafting see the Grafting Page.

    Date: Sunday March 18,2018
    Setup Time:  9:00 am to 12 noon.  For MidFEx members only to help setup, prepare rootstocks and to sort scion wood. No experience necessary to help out and much good fruit growing conversation to be had.
    Afternoon Session:  1:00 pm - 4:00 pm  Due to space limitations this session is limited to members only and especially intended for less experienced MidFEx members and their guests. Please arrive on time. Lecture begins at 1:00 sharp. Workshop will last until about 4:00 pm.
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only Page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only Page
    Event Details: This event is open to members and guests of members only.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only Page for additional details.
  • Kurle Memorial Lecture
    Event Description:
    Dan Bussey of Seed Savers
    Heirloom Apples for the Midwest Orchard

    Daniel Bussey is an orchardist, horticulturist, historian, professional cider maker and former businessman, who grew up and spent most of his life in rural southern Wisconsin. Dan has taught workshops on grafting fruit trees, cider-making and other apple-related topics for more than 30 years and has grown heirloom apple varieties all of his life. He has been featured on Public Radio International’s “The Takeaway” and National Public Radio’s “Science Friday”, and has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles. This past August saw the long-awaited release of Dan’s seven volume work, “The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada” which lists over 16,000 apples that were grown in North America between 1629 and 2000. The book was a long-time project over 30 years in the making.

    Dan is not only fascinated with heirloom apples and cider-making, but is a producer and grower of hard cider apples and has helped to introduce a new cider apple variety to the trade; Kronebusch Cider, with more varieties expected in the coming years.  Dan has attended the Cider and Perry Academy’s advanced cider course at Cornell University and is an avid promoter of the cider beverage industry. Dan believes the essential element of craft cider making is the selection of the best variety of apples possible; those with superior flavors, aromatics and phenolic structure. Understand the apple and its myriad of flavors and everything else will follow.

    Dan Bussey’s lifelong interest in raising fruit, seeking out rare, missing heirloom varieties and researching the history of apple growing in the United States and Canada is matched only by his other fascination, that of collecting and preserving horse-drawn sleighs, wagons and hearses, having assembled one of the largest collections of horse-drawn sleighs in the country along with numerous commercial wagons of all trades.  Dan currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Carriage Museum of America, based in Lexington, Kentucky and is working on several upcoming publications on carriage history.

    Dan now resides near Decorah, Iowa, where he is the Orchard Manager and Apple Historian for the Seed Savers Exchange, maintaining and enlarging the Historic Orchard at Heritage Farm to contain nearly 1300 apple accessions and make them available to orchardists. Dan believes that having a passion in life, whatever it might be, is the key to a satisfying life.

    Date: Saturday February 24, 2018
    Time: 1pm
    Location: Chicago Botanic Garden
    Directions: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.  
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges. Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden

    The Kurle Memorial Lecture is offered annually in honor of Bob and Mary Kurle, conveners of the Midwest Fruit Explorers. Bob was known as one of the top fruit and nut enthusiasts in the U.S. He networked actively with fruit and nut growers all over the world. In the 1970s, Bob’s displays at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show focused the interest of ordinary gardeners on dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees, hybrid nuts, and promoted growing the best fruit varieties suited to the Chicagoland area. He appeared in Organic Gardening and the Chicago Tribune.

    Event Details: This event is open to members and non-members.
Midwest Fruit Explorers, P.O. Box 93, Markham, IL 60428-0093
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