History of the Heritage Fruits Society Inc.

The Heritage Fruits Society has its roots in the East Gippsland Organic growers association who, in 1992, handed over the work they had done so far to a new sub-group of Permaculture Melbourne Inc. – The “Heritage Fruits Group- HFG”. Under this banner we ran “grafting days” as well as talks for community groups, conferences and schools on the benefits of saving the old fruit varieties for the future.
We also collected varietites, established private collections and added varieties to existing collections when possible. This continues today.

In 1999 we began working with Petty’s Orchard in Templestowe to help save the collection established there in 1984, which includes 200 varieties of heritage apples on different rootstocks and demonstration trellis systems.

This work increased when the group began to run the two-day Apple Festival, which was held annually on the last weekend in March. Each year some members look after the organisation of the event while others spend those two days running tours through the orchard collection and arranging displays of 120+ varieties for the public to see and as many as 80 to taste.
We also set up permaculture displays to improve public awareness of how to design mixed home orchards, how to grow trees in the backyard and all the management techniques needed. These simple systems help to do lots of the work for you.

The workload and focus shifted in 2003 when the group took on the Petty’s Heritage Collection - two acres of old apple varieties not available in supermarkets, which are in danger of being 'lost' to gardeners. In 2007 we officially took on the full responsibility of the collection's maintenance and the costs involved, with a “gentleman’s” sub-lease.
During the sixteen years that the Heritage Fruit Group was running, a dedicated band of around sixteen people did most of the tasks but also, through this work, significantly increased their knowledge of fruit trees and old varieties. Some now run their own nurseries and many other related ventures.
At the 2006 Collingwood Children’s Farm Heritage Fruits Day, members decided to look towards incorporation of this group due to the constraints we faced with getting grant money to fulfil some of the plans we had to improve and expand the collection from 200 to around 600 varieties still surviving in Victoria. The existing organisational structure did not suit the standards that some funding bodies required and the move would also open many more doors for us to help save the collection and improve it.
Therefore in May 2008 the Heritage Fruits Society Inc. (HFS) was formed (this took over a year to complete).
Why do this and what benefits are there? Similar groups in other states have more than three hundred members. The new HFS does not require people to use only organic methods to grow fruit; or require you to join a group that may not be “your cup of tea”, the focus is on the conservation of the varieties and the sharing of propagation materials to help people conserve these at home or in the orchard.
Of course many in the group will continue to grow fruit under Certified Organic, Biodynamic and chemical free Permaculture systems and are willing to share their experience. This is fast becoming the choice of farmers and certainly is the fastest growth area in food production that is due to the very high customer demand worldwide.
We have seen commercial orchardists with large collections in all parts of the world, because once you learn the simple art of grafting new varieties it often becomes infectious. Some of our members have 300+ different apples at home, but apples are not the only fruit we care about. We are just as happy to save pears, nashi, figs, berries, plums or avocados not to mention all the more exotic fruits that can be grown.

Silvia Allen
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