Nut Growing Pioneer John Gordon Passes away
A Nut Tour of Nova Scotia
On Saturday August 4, 2012, at 8 am nut tree enthusiasts began arriving in large numbers at the Agr & Agri-Food, Atlantic Canada Food & Horticulture Research Centre, East Main Street, Kentville, Nova Scotia, They were responding to an invitation by Tom Haliburton offering a day of sharing which he had painstakingly planned. Over refreshments and registration, there was much meeting and greeting.
At 8:30 the meeting began with Tom Haliburton giving an illustrated overview. Ernie Grimo followed, talking about the possibility of serious nut growing in Nova Scotia and the similarity of the NS climate with that in Ontario. John Wilson shared pictures of his trees and shared some of his good and not so good experiences in growing nut trees. Les Corkum concluded the program with discussion of the arrival of chestnut blight in spite of his long held wish that importation of chestnuts to NS be banned. He concluded that the development of blight resistant varieties is the only remaining line of defense.
Two buses were loaded with the 80 participants and the farm tours began. We toured the farms of Gerry Klassen, Duncan Keppie, Walter Urban, and Tom Haliburton, concluding at Avonport Beach near Tom's property. A delightful lunch was served by the ladies of Avonport Baptist Church at noon and was very much enjoyed by all. At the conclusion there was discussion about what we had all seen and the enthusiasm of the people for nut tree growing was very evident.
It was decided that a branch of SONG would be a welcome and a very beneficial endeavor. The suggestion that it be Society of Atlantic Nut Growers (SANG) is being entertained. Tom Haliburton was unanimously acclaimed as Chairman of this new nut growing group and Fran Smith as Secretary. A fall meeting was suggested by Tom to discuss this further and to decide whether to go alone or become a chapter of SONG.
ECSONG News 2012
12 May: Roman Popadiouk, John Sankey, Richard Viger and Gordon Wilkinson cut squares of
carpet to place around all the heartnut seedlings we could locate to help suppress weeds and to
aid in locating them. They were not yet in leaf. Carpet was donated by Denise
Rasmussen & Richard.
15 May: Joanne Butler & John Sankey met with Katrina Siks & Jason Garlough, founders of Hidden Harvest Ottawa, and a dozen others interested in "We pick fruit, share it, and plant more trees". Joanne will be ECSONG's liaison with them. Black Walnut, common in Ottawa, will be a first year target for them, with ECSONG assistance.
1 June: OMNR ecologist Heather Zurbrigg met John Sankey at the Borthwick Ridge walnut plantation to place a monitoring trap for walnut twig beetle a vector of 1000 cankers fungus. Hopefully it will come up empty throughout bi-weekly checks. [It did.]
15 June: Peter Goddard and John Sankey added several new species to the FRP grove, notably northern Shagbark hickory from Lavant and European chestnut from northern Italy donated by Luciano Pradal, well known in Ottawa for his roasted chestnuts served at the Byward market.
9-13 July: Gordon Wilkinson visited from Vancouver to work on the Hardy Heartnuts, and spent almost all his time hauling pails of water to save as many of the trees as possible from, the drought. He's hoping for his first crop this fall: 7 nuts on two trees.
July: the worst plant transpiration drought on record (since 1890) killed most young trees city-wide that could not be steadily watered. Between the drought and a recent infestation of cottontail rabbits, none of the Sawmill Creek seedlings have survived. Planting is continuing with each tree surrounded by a one meter tall welded-wire guard.
2 August: Julie Jackson, a forester with the City of Ottawa, met John Sankey at Sawmill Creek to plan more plantations of nut trees. We hope to get Chinese hazel seed from Charles Rhora to plant in one of them; local black walnut, butternut and white oak are planned for others.
Other Ottawa nut news:
5 May: the Chesterville Kayak Club joined Irene Broad, the founder of Oak Valley, and 8 other Volunteers of Oak Valley Pioneer Park in a spring cleanup of the park. The kayakers plan a launch ramp at the park.
23 June: William Watt gave a tour of the hundred or so walnut, butternut and oak trees he has planted along Nepean Creek over the past eight years.
11 July: Bridget & Robert Franks of Haileybury note that they have a butternut 30+ years old that produces fertile seed some years. This is the northernmost known site of butternut; they have agreed to send seed to ECSONG when it next bears - hopefully 2013.
John Gordon Passes
John Gordon passed away on August 2 of this year after several months of being hospitalized. He was recognized as an expert in nut culture as well as some of the "orphan" fruits including pawpaw and persimmon. He was an extraordinary nut tree explorer and grower always searching for new adaptable species of nut trees or cultivars with outstanding characteristics. His most outstanding attribute was his willingness to share what he found with everyone who was interested without concern for credit or remuneration.
John Gordon joined NNGA in the early 1960's with a driving interest in the American chestnut, an interest that continued throughout his life. This interest expanded to all other nuts including hickory and pecan. I met John at my first NNGA meeting in 1968 and we became good friends from then on.
He was an inaugural member of SONG and attended the first meeting in October of 1972. He was an enthusiastic, active member for many years. He was elected as President of SONG, a position he held for several years. He donated the writing of Nut Growing Ontario Style, the first handbook of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers.
He was also an active member of the New York branch of the American Chestnut Foundation as soon as it formed. He assisted wherever he was asked in the meetings and research work. He also joined the New York Nut Growers Association as soon as it formed. He actively served both groups until his death.
He was one of the group responsible for the introduction of the ultra northern pecans that are successfully growing in eastern North America. He went into the nettle infested northern Mississippi River forests several years in a row to find early ripening pecans. He collected pecan seed nuts and scion wood from these trees. We now have his colorfully named cultivars like 'Deerstand', 'Lucas', 'Carlson 3' and 'Snaps' because of his efforts. He unselfishly shared all of his findings with his interested friends. He started the Pecan Distribution Programme where he sent out thousands of packets of ultra northern pecans to interested growers all over the USA and Canada for several years. This project caused the NNGA membership to swell to record numbers.
He dedicated a large part of his 50 acre farm to the trial plantings of thousands of seedling and grafted trees with the intention of introducing new cultivars of nut trees. His outstanding contributions of 'Imshu', 'Locket' and 'Stealth' are a few of the heartnut selections he made. His nut tree nursery supplied numerous growers with seedling and grafted trees, as well as seed nuts and scion wood for many years.
His interests also turned to the fruiting trees that NNGA members adopted including pawpaw's and persimmons. He introduced and tested several selections of both of these fruits including his own persimmon introduction 'Geneva Long' recently renamed 'Gordon' by the Grimo Nut Nursery.
John will be sorely missed to all those who knew him. A remembrance was held on August 3 and his ashes were spread over his Amherst property by his daughter Katie Gordon on August 10.
Ernie & Bernice Grimo
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as president of SONG again. It has been 40 years since I was the founding president of SONG. Much has transpired since then. I hope to continue in the tradition of good leadership. Best of all, nut growing is being taken as a serious fanning venture now. New sprays are being added to our arsenal of disease, insect and weed control, and grants are being given for research in hazelnut research with the prospect of a commercial hazelnut industry in Ontario.
This year, the 4 day NNGA (Northern Nut Growers Association) meeting was held at Kentucky State University. NNGA conferences are a "must attend" for serious nut growers. So much can be learned from the experts and scientists that present their findings at these meetings. I attribute much of my success as a nut grower from what I learned over the years there. The reports are then published in the Nutshell, the quarterly newsletter of the NNGA for all to read.
After a brief visit in Florida Bernice and I returned northward to Kentville Nova Scotia to participate in a talk and tour of the local grower nut plantings. Surprisingly, their climate zones are similar to Southern Ontario. The resulting tour proved that they can grow all of the nut trees we do including tender types like Persian walnut, heartnut, Chinese chestnut and hazelnuts. If there are shortcomings in their area, it is more likely a soil condition or pH problem rather than climate. At the conclusion of the meeting of about 80 participants, a straw vote indicated that they wanted to form an association, most likely to be a chapter of SONG. At their fall meeting to be announced, important decisions will be made. We wish them well.
Bernice and I were invited to Prince Edward Island next to see the plantings of hazelnut trees that were established in the last 2-5 years. The three growers involved were Bill Glen, Delmar Holmstrom and David Hankinson. Each has several acres of experimental hazelnut trees. The trees are doing well in this zone 5 climate area even though many are tender European cultivars from Oregon, They purposely chose high ground protected by windbreaks and are studying mem to identify the best nut producers and to determine which ones are the best pollinators. So far they have identified an early and a late pollinator. They are still working on a main season pollinator. These forward looking men are working to find a suitable crop to fit the climate change model that they are expecting in the future on the Island.
On our way home we visited with Gilles and Lise Cyr on the west side of Montreal. Gilles has done remarkable work over many years on his abandoned 50 acre gravel pit. He brought in truck loads of topsoil to cover the denuded land. His work is reminiscent of the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island that attracts thousands of visitors each year. He has indeed developed an arboretum worthy of merit. We spent the better part of a day touring the various parts of his parkland of scattered trees and clear ponds. Here Persian walnut or a heartnut trees, there persimmon or pawpaw trees. Each vista had something unexpected and different. He has several ponds on the property that also enhance the setting. I asked Gilles how he managed, to get so many seemingly tender species to grow there. His answer was simple. He planted many seeds and trees, some made it, some didn't. They were wonderful hosts that made our visit completely memorable.
Motion: By Ernie Grimo / Seconded by Bruce Thurston
Moved that free membership for officers in SONG and SONG Chapters be rescinded, except for the Treasurer and Auditor whose work load is highest.
Discussion: It is agreed by the officers polled that they are happy to pay their dues in support of nut growing activities and SONG. The exception of the two officers identified above are usually given a stipend for their work in many small organizations. Since Bernice Grimo is the current Treasurer and part of a family membership, there will be no change for her. My membership dues will include her. This motion will affect other members that may become Treasurer in the future. The auditor is very generous with her time and effort. Without Joyce Branston-Hunter's generous support, we would be paying much more for this work. We will bring up this motion and vote at the fall meeting.
Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.