Margo True

Heirloom fruit tree (photo courtesy of Felix Gillet Institute)

Barnraiser, a very cool crowd-funding site devoted to healthy, sustainable food projects, has one up now that makes our hearts beat especially fast. Called “Eureka! Saving Heirloom Fruit & Nut Trees from the California Gold Rush,” it’s the passion project of Amigo Bob Cantisano, a legendary organic farmer in this state.

Almost 45 years ago, while hiking in California’s Sierra Nevada, Cantisano stumbled across a century-old, still-productive orchard filled with unbelievably delicious heirloom apples, pears, plums and cherries. Since then, he and his team have found thousands of other heirloom fruit and nut trees, all planted in mining camps, farms, and ranches during the Gold Rush—and all at risk of fading away into oblivion.

His plan, if he meets his fundraising goal in the next 5 days (that’s by Wednesday, August 13): To plant a “mother” orchard filled with these trees, selected for their outstanding flavor but also their resistance to drought and pests, before the original trees die. Then he’ll make them available to gardeners and farmers everywhere. “A tree that can survive 150 years without human intervention is incredible, especially when we consider that today’s trees typically only last 25-35 years, even with the best farmers’ help,” says Cantisano.

To help Cantisano and his team save as many of these strong old trees as possible (and eventually bring them to your garden), hurry on over to help out.

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