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Appalachian food forest  RSS feed

 
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Has anyone tried creating a food forest in the Appalachian mountains? I live on the side of a mountain, and it is quite different gardening here than anywhere I ever ived.
 
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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There are different biomes depending on if you're on acid or lime soil, and which direction you're facing but in general you can grow oaks, hickories, walnuts, and chestnuts well in the region, as well as brambles (blackberries, etc.). Apples, pears, etc. can do well also. I planted hazelnuts and they're thriving.

If your hillside garden is very steep then you'll probably want to terrace it and maybe look into the keyline information for catching and directing water so it doesn't just run off.

I was recently climbing the Pinnacle at Berea and was amazed - at the top of the hill, which was just a giant rock formation, there was a lot of thick rich spongy humus from the trees eking out an existence in the crevices of the rocks. The climate is *very* conducive to trees and grass, and pretty much anything green.

In Foxfire when you read through the history of people living in Appalachia, they used the trees a lot - sourwood honey, ran pigs in the woods, etc. They also grew cushaw squash and pole beans a LOT.

Conserving the soil from being carried away in heavy rains is a big consideration. Finding level and making paths, etc. level as much as possible is important because anywhere the grass is worn away will become a stream and carry soil away on you. Putting large branches across downhill sloping paths helps slow the flow but you can still get soil loss (what I'm dealing with here).
 
Greta Fields
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I posted a reply but it does not show up. I tried to send you photos.
I have seen the keyline videos on YouTube, and I agree with what these people are doing. I just watched the video by the soil scientists about controlling water absorption in soil too.
In order to get humus to add to my gardens, I have piled up rotting logs and branches and leaves right in the woods, to make a "humus compost pile". I get as much humus per year this way as a bale of peatmoss. [I don't like stealing Ireland's peat anyway.]
Actually, I have started most plants that you mention. I have an orchard, and yes, pears do well. My cherries and apples are also doing well, but not peaches. I may move the peaches to a pond, since I have seen peach trees hanging over creeks that were loaded. I assume the water kept the trees warm.
I have a walnut tree with nothing but raspberries running around under it. I clipped the runners and pruned the canes, and got about 16 cups of berries the first June. This year, I added horse manure to them and mulched them in winter, and they look real good now
I have also found that hazelnuts thrive here. I had to add Spanish and Turkish types to get the American hazelnuts to pollinate, however. My nuts are too small though.
I just ordered persimmon and Shellbark Hickory and one Bush Cherry from Burgess Seed, a cheap company selling leftovers from other companies. I will also order trees from the state Forestry Division farm at West Liberty, Ky. For $20, you can get a LOT of Shellbark Hickory. I could LIVE on Shellbark Hickory.
I want topurchase some of the hybrid chestnut trees, and it costs $40 to join the American Chestnut Assn. to get those trees.
Regards the cliffs on the Pinnacle: A lot of cliffs are sandstone too, and sandstone absorbs water, which explains why trees grow on top of rocks. the Indians discovered they could find water in a desert by finding sandstone cliffs, which would have a "seep" at the bottom!
So, you must live in Berea, Ky? I heard about all the communities and seed saving going on around there, and Trish's playwriting group. Several Berea students have been here, and Nathan Hall moved back here after Berea. I can't think the other girl's name.
I am down in the southeast, near Whitesburg, and on Pine Mountain. I have a giant watershed all to myself, and it has everything in it almost. I just need to add to the existing biodiversity. There's even rare animals and mountain lions and elk.
I greww up spending summers near Danville Ky., on my grandma's farm. My mom grew up there, and went to Berea. They are all dead and gone now, but I remember summers that were a child's paradise: Us kids lived in a creek, which was full of animals, fossils and blue pottery clay. We also worked in the gardens together, so I am used to people farming togeher already. We had all meals together, so it was a lot like a community.




 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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You can get chestnuts for planting from several companies (I know Burnt Ridge sells them). Plant 3 spaced a foot apart wherever you want chestnut trees and put a tin can with the bottom cut out and a "X" cut in the top over them to protect them from mice and squirrels. As the tree grows open out the tabs on the "X" to make room and the can should rust out before it girdles the tree. If you have soda cans you can use them too but cut down the side to remove them before they girdle the tree because they won't rust. I guess you can do the same thing with hickories. We've got so many hickories here I can just dig the seedlings and move them.

I'm not in Berea, but in Richmond, next town over. We love to go to Berea for the arts and farmer's markets, tho.

I got trees from the state forestry division. Some were nice, some were tiny but so far all are alive. They couldn't fill my orders for 100 trees and gave me just 10 instead, for more money because I had to pay shipping then. I found out later I could have gotten them from some good mail-order nurseries like Musser Forests for a similar price and they would have been improved cultivar seedlings, not just generic trees.
 
Greta Fields
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Thanks for the info. It so happens, I just ordered a Musser Catalogue, but haven't gotten it yet.
I am afraid of buying trees from Lowe's now....I am afraid maybe they sprayed them with pesticides before they arrived at Lowe's, and that they would kill my bees.
They say the insecticides in "pink corn", treated corn, is what's killing bees.
Sounds like you all plant a lot of trees. I like to plant lots of them, because attrition is so high. I planted 42 Butternuts from nuts in the lower field, for example, and 12 around one house, and another hundred scattered all over the mountains. I have about ten of them, 25-35 feet tall now, but none of them have provided nuts. The mother tree only provides nuts every 4-5 years, however. Walnuts drop nuts every other year or so.
I never go to Berea, but I have a house in Lex. still, so I go there a lot. I do house repairs myself, and am fixing up the house to sell. I usually go to the Food Co-op there, anb bookstores a lot. I like the way people are planting food gardens in their yards now. I did that years ago once. I even dug up the whole curb. Nobody noticed until I grew 35-ft. poplar trees in the backyard. Then people complained. I cut them down. Then I moved here, and I have thousands of poplars now (: )
 
gardener
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Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Chestnuts, persimmons, pawpaws, black locust... excellent native building blocks for a superb food forest.
 
Greta Fields
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I agree Isaac. However, I would include mulberries and Shellbark Hickory, standard cherry. Have you tried any of this food forestry in Pennsylvania
 
Posts: 174
Location: Berea, Kentucky
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Renate Haeckler wrote:There are different biomes depending on if you're on acid or lime soil, and which direction you're facing but in general you can grow oaks, hickories, walnuts, and chestnuts well in the region, as well as brambles (blackberries, etc.). Apples, pears, etc. can do well also. I planted hazelnuts and they're thriving.

If your hillside garden is very steep then you'll probably want to terrace it and maybe look into the keyline information for catching and directing water so it doesn't just run off.

I was recently climbing the Pinnacle at Berea and was amazed - at the top of the hill, which was just a giant rock formation, there was a lot of thick rich spongy humus from the trees eking out an existence in the crevices of the rocks. The climate is *very* conducive to trees and grass, and pretty much anything green.

In Foxfire when you read through the history of people living in Appalachia, they used the trees a lot - sourwood honey, ran pigs in the woods, etc. They also grew cushaw squash and pole beans a LOT.

Conserving the soil from being carried away in heavy rains is a big consideration. Finding level and making paths, etc. level as much as possible is important because anywhere the grass is worn away will become a stream and carry soil away on you. Putting large branches across downhill sloping paths helps slow the flow but you can still get soil loss (what I'm dealing with here).

hey neighbor, You can see my house from the east pinnacle.
 
Greta Fields
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Hi Joseph
I have never been up on the pinnacle, but my mother talked about it a lot. The fascinating thing about cliffs is, they absorb water like soil, so things can grow on them, strange as it seems for plants to grow on rocks. The Indians knew how to find water and salt seeping out the bottom of cliffs.
I have joined that e-mail list for the food market and farms for the Growing Warriors around Berea....I guess that is how you got started, through them?? That is a great organization, sounds like. You are lucky having people like them around, and family too! I wish we had more activities like that around me. I read about one of the farms having an open house, but I couldn't go.
Well, I have just discovered that I have a perfect moist bottomland for Shellbark Hickories. My mother grew them on a seemingly dry yard, but the yard was built over a former swam, so the hickories probably sent taproots down into the old drainage flows under the yard.
You are right about the problems growing things around hills and woods. While you probably have good Central Ky soil, I have mostly acid humus. I have to modify the garden soil to grow ordinary vegetables...it is working though. I am getting nice tomatoes, beans and squash now.
 
Joseph Fields
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Location: Berea, Kentucky
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Greta Fields wrote:Hi Joseph
I have never been up on the pinnacle, but my mother talked about it a lot. The fascinating thing about cliffs is, they absorb water like soil, so things can grow on them, strange as it seems for plants to grow on rocks. The Indians knew how to find water and salt seeping out the bottom of cliffs.
I have joined that e-mail list for the food market and farms for the Growing Warriors around Berea....I guess that is how you got started, through them?? That is a great organization, sounds like. You are lucky having people like them around, and family too! I wish we had more activities like that around me. I read about one of the farms having an open house, but I couldn't go.
Well, I have just discovered that I have a perfect moist bottomland for Shellbark Hickories. My mother grew them on a seemingly dry yard, but the yard was built over a former swam, so the hickories probably sent taproots down into the old drainage flows under the yard.
You are right about the problems growing things around hills and woods. While you probably have good Central Ky soil, I have mostly acid humus. I have to modify the garden soil to grow ordinary vegetables...it is working though. I am getting nice tomatoes, beans and squash now.

Growing Warrior's is helping veterans ( such as me )move products etc. Pretty good organization. If your in the area and I'm off work I would be glad to give a tour of the pinnacles.
 
Greta Fields
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thank you. That was one of my mother's favorite spots! Someday I would like to visit the pinnacle. I never took my mother back there when she was alive, and I should have. We used to drive 2-3 times per year to see her mother's farm in Boyle County, however.
Right now, am too busy to travel! I am in a local storytelling group that is about to put on a play, and we rehearse a lot. Also, I am still working on a house roof!
Greta
 
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I have a five year old forest garden at my hillside farm in Athens, Ohio. You can see some pictures at http://www.solidgroundfarm.com/the-grounds/, but most of my pics are on facebook https://www.facebook.com/TransitionToOffGrid?ref=ts&fref=ts. I love giving tours if you are ever in the region. We also do a forest garden weekend workshop in the Spring. This year it is March 22-23 http://www.solidgroundfarm.com/permaculture-design/spring-pdc/.

Happy gardening.
 
Joseph Fields
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Location: Berea, Kentucky
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Greta Fields wrote:thank you. That was one of my mother's favorite spots! Someday I would like to visit the pinnacle. I never took my mother back there when she was alive, and I should have. We used to drive 2-3 times per year to see her mother's farm in Boyle County, however.
Right now, am too busy to travel! I am in a local storytelling group that is about to put on a play, and we rehearse a lot. Also, I am still working on a house roof!
Greta


I did a little sunrise hike at the pinnacles the other day and this random dog was there so I took it's photo.
 
Posts: 19
Location: Appalchia
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Hello, this is my first post and although an older forum, I am starting my food forest in western PA. I am driven to make Appalachia a thriving region that brings abundance to this enduring place. On my youtube channel- theothermillennial , I have posted some videos on my tiny house project and my food forest plants. How is everyone doing with their systems?
 
Posts: 1086
Location: Green County, Kentucky
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I don't know if it qualifies as the Appalachians, but we are moving to Central Kentucky (Green County) next spring, and I've been looking for what to grow, and where to buy.  The property is small (only 2.68 acres) but seems to have good soil.  It's over half mostly level, with some slope down to a small pond, partly fenced and has been used as pasture.  There are about eight large black locusts in the back yard; I'm going to cut them down (and coppice from the stumps) because 1. some of them could endanger the house if limbs fell, and 2. I need to increase the amount of sun on the back yard so we can plant the vegetable garden there (it's closest to kitchen door, and the south side of the property).  We'll have beehives, chickens, ducks, and probably a couple of dairy goats (I've raised goats since 1983), but I want to use most of the space for permaculture, planting around a wide assortment of fruit and nut trees. 

 
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christopher Sommers wrote:Hello, this is my first post and although an older forum, I am starting my food forest in western PA. I am driven to make Appalachia a thriving region that brings abundance to this enduring place. On my youtube channel- theothermillennial , I have posted some videos on my tiny house project and my food forest plants. How is everyone doing with their systems? [/quote
I'll get ahold of you, I've been working towards the same across Appalachians for a couple of years myself. I get around, and would like to collaborate in time.

 
Wyatt Bottorff
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I have been semi-stewarding a few properties in the central Appalachians for a few years now, more focus on managing the properties rather than starting from scratch. Only now am I beginning to bring in new plants from starts, rootlets, seeds, etc. All this time observing has been KEY, with such complex environments as we have here we need to be sure to take EVERYTHING in before making much for alterations.
Being that my primary passion is herbalism, my focus is in particular medicines, first and foremost wild-simulated cultivation of endangered plants such as Cohosh, Ginseng, Solomon's Seal, etc. Although we are improving soil in some areas for more general garden plants and herbs, as well as nursery space for fruit and nut trees, etc. Depending on the way things occur, an enterprise focused on installing and maintaining permaculture installations in the Appalachians may be among my most important of occupations.
 
Posts: 23
Location: North Georgia 7a
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We are out of Copperhill, Tn . We are on year three of our food forest on 3.4 acres. We had naturally wild shrubbery like persimmons, walnut, sumac, sassafras, and are adding more native plants and fruit trees.. Find us on instagram @nativeforestgardens
We are expecting to create a nursery and sell native pawpaws and persimmons, and encourage native reforestation and encourage wild life.
 
Posts: 24
Location: South Appalachia zone 7a
bee dog trees
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Great to hear Appalachian permies in the group!!! Keep the trend growing. We need more beekeepers around here. We have 3 acres in north georgia, working on self sustaining abilities and selling quality trees.
Youtube Channel
 
christopher Sommers
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Location: Appalchia
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Really great to see so many other amazing people in the Appalachia region making food forests and working toward a better future for yourselves! Keep up the great work everyone! It is also great to see you guys and gals working on the economics of starting your own business in selling plants, medicine, and knowledge- we need more of this. I'm 29 and I'm finally getting off my a$$ and making my life better and brighter too. It's so nice to be able to connect with you all in sharing what we are doing. This does help people like me to continue in permaculture and creating a resilient life.

In terms of livestock and poultry, what breeds have worked well for you all? It will be a few more years until I start raising my own, but would like to start now in learning more about the breeds and techniques that have worked and what has not. There is a wonderful heritage pig farm near me and I would like to try my hand at raising two pigs in a few years.

As the temps are 10-15 degrees colder than the low-lands, it's a good experience going through my first winter in the shipping container tiny house and testing out the cubic mini wood stove!

Just as some of you guys have begun your own small business, I have started a plant nursery too. I have finally followed my passions in plant cultivation and education and created AppalachiaTreeCrops.com. Its small but I will grow it. I hope you guys also continue in your plant nurseries because we need to be ready and offer as many people as possible a better way of living than what they have been taught. One of my biggest reasons for the nursery is to help preserve our beautiful Appalachia forests from exploitation by government and companies. Appalachia is the greatest treasure I know both in terms of its people and biodiversity so, in order to see the change, we have to be the change.
 
Clinton Hitch
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Location: North Georgia 7a
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Check us out, about 3 years into regenerating this old farm:
https://nativeforestgardens.wordpress.com/
 
christopher Sommers
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Location: Appalchia
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Hey everyone, how are you all keeping warm this winter? Hows your plantings and work going as well?
 
Clinton Hitch
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Location: North Georgia 7a
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We have a pile of wood and a clean stovepipe.

Planted a few dozen trees and shrubs over late fall/early winter (mostly native "wildlife mix" bareroot type stuff along with 10 highbush bl. berry and 10 everbearing rasp., some clumping+dwarf bamboo, 2 dozen pawpaw seedlings etc.) and currently waiting it out until the second round of bareroots arrive in the spring.

We are looking forward to planting 6 American chestnut (seedlings from a stand of blight-immune/resistant trees), hardy pecans, butternuts, more currants, etc.

Current noteworthy building project has been transitioning our 8 chickens from a static coop to a mobile tractor system. Have slapped together 1 of 2 necessary tractors; making these light and on the cheap so it's basically a scrap pine frame wired in on the sides with a tarp for a roof and a built-in hardwood pole perch.
 
christopher Sommers
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Location: Appalchia
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Excellent work Clinton! In regards to your butternuts, do you see any issues with butternut canker disease in your part of the range? They have been hit hard in the central part and is expanding.

 
christopher Sommers
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Location: Appalchia
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I also wanted to ask you all about my food forest design with fruit, nut, and berry plants below my house. I placed my home site on a south-facing knoll. Below the house, I am going to be planting semi-dwarf fruit trees, hazels, and berries. My question is about the layout.

Should I plant early maturing fruit plants down the slope with the later maturing fruits upslope closer to the house? I cannot find the article, but I swore I read that a person(s) suggested this in case you would like to have chicken or duck tractors clean up fallen fruit. If the early maturing fruit was at the top of the hill and the poultry came through, their droppings would, in theory, wash downhill onto later maturing fallen fruit, contaminating them. So as the fruit matures, having the poultry tractors move upslope in unison with produce maturing would keep contamination low. What do you think about this concept and subsequent design?

I also want to add that I am planting the fruits and nuts according to the season maturity times so for example in row two all the produce ripens in July and in row three all ripen in August. This makes harvesting straightforward and so much simpler than walking all over trying to see what is ripe or not. In the future, I do want to have chickens and maybe ducks go through.

This will be a mixed planting, so this means that each row will be a mix of species but my focus is on ripening times.

Thanks for any opinions you could lend and would be even better if you had experience with this situation.

 
Michelle Latham
Posts: 24
Location: South Appalachia zone 7a
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Christopher. Great method to create from. I would take into consideration the micro climate of your landscape when planting first, from my experience. See where the moisture and shade sits in the land. Some fruit trees want more water, some require less. Some soil may be richer in certain areas for tender root structures. Also the height of each will create shade and canopies all across the land. Check out the “Permaculture design” group on Facebook. They would love your ideas and  questions too. Seems like a good experiment to try planting via harvest times on a slope. Have you see any who have similar methods? Would like to see where your inspiration came from.
 
Clinton Hitch
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Location: North Georgia 7a
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christopher Sommers wrote:Excellent work Clinton! In regards to your butternuts, do you see any issues with butternut canker disease in your part of the range? They have been hit hard in the central part and is expanding.



that's the first I've heard of it! Might explain why they weren't expensive?
 
christopher Sommers
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Location: Appalchia
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Michelle- Perfect, I will check them out. I've spent months looking online trying to find it and I actually think it may be in Bill Mollison's book but since its hundreds of pages long it's going to take a little while to look through it. If I find it, I'll post the link or information here. Thanks for the other advice on moisture and shade. Most of the ones I could find (and afford) are semi-dwarf. This works because it's on a hill so having easier harvest access with them closer to the ground will be beneficial. I keep thinking that frost would be an issue but since this will be a mixed planting (and this south slope is the area that I had cleared), apple, peach, pear, berry, and other fruits will be in various spots within the "orchard" and so frost would not destroy all of the fruiting cultivars and varieties. Either way, this is a larger property with a diversity of species so I am taking what Ben Faulk had to say in his awesome book The Resilient Farm & Homestead to heart and keeping everything as simple and straightforward as possible. I would love to have guilds of 6+ species around a fruit tree but the maintenance of the species over time makes things very complicated when it is across the landscape.

Clinton- Sure seems like there is always some awful imported species that wants to destroy all of our native species. Sets me nuts and breaks my heart. In addition to butternut canker disease, there is the expanding thousand canker disease killing black walnuts. In regards to butternut, planting what you can to see if you have any that are inherently disease resistant would be cool. Sure it's a long shot but genetics are so cool so you never know! There is a protected reservoir near me that I walk often and have found some butternuts. We are way east of the USDA accepted a range of butternuts so its neat to find species like this. anyway, Ive been collecting and growing their seeds out too. Who knows, maybe they have some resilience?
 
Clinton Hitch
Posts: 23
Location: North Georgia 7a
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Damn, that's the first I've heard of thousand canker disease, too! Wikipedia says the disease is around Knoxville now so that's pretty close to home...

We have a ton of black walnuts around here (most of ye locals consider the tree a weed) and at least a dozen mature ones on my property. So maybe we'll prove to have some survivor DNA in our trees.

I also planted two dozen wild hazelnuts before reading up on eastern filbert blight... and we are planting six American chestnuts this spring...

The Am. chestnuts we ordered from Chief River Nursery out of Wisconsin. Here's their blurb about growing their chestnut seedlings:

"Our pure American Chestnuts come from mature parents who have survived the blight and are producing chestnut seeds.  For now, the possibility of American Chestnuts getting the blight sometime in their life is a real possibility.  These seedlings are grown from chestnuts collected from a large orchard of very old American Chestnut trees which have never displayed symptoms of the blight even though the blight has affected all the other trees in the region.  It is uncommon to see this happen and leads us to believe that the parents may have some natural built in blight resistance."

Seemed legit...
 
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