President’s Letter

This was written in January 2019 for the Spring issue of MNFGA News:


Definition of succinct: briefly and clearly expressed.


I would love to be a succinct writer…but I am not. It always seems like there is so much to tell you and I do not like to leave out the details.


First, I am going to ask for your thoughts and prayers. Henry Ohmer passed away on December 22, 2018.   Henry was the kind soul who so generously donated bags and bags of shagbark hickory nut meat halves. These went into the MNFGA fundraising auctions and generated incredible results because people know that it takes a lot of time to crack hickory nuts. There are no shortcuts. Henry’s daughter, Jane, said that he was amazed that the nuts brought such high bids. To him, they were something free, all they needed was a little time to crack them out. Well, as we all know, time is a precious commodity. Henry, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with MNFGA. You will be missed by many, as was evidenced by the packed funeral just two days after Christmas.


Cecelia’s sister, Elizabeth, died unexpectedly on January 16. Whereas Henry was 92 ½ (Jane said he was sure to get the ½ in there!), Cecelia’s sister was way younger, much more difficult to wrap our arms around.


On the lighter side: MNFGA’s next meeting is March 23, 2019, at MSU. NOTE: we are in the Chemistry Building…the next building to the east of our typical A W Farrall Hall. Room 138. We selected this room to accommodate what we suspect is going to be a larger-than-normal crowd. One of our speakers has over 10,000 followers on his Facebook page: Michigan Mushroom Hunters. The other speaker has been selling mushroom growing kits for years in the Ann Arbor area.:  Business meeting at 10:00. Lunch at 11:00 with scion exchange. NOTE: NO POTLUCK or snack room. Please bring your own lunch or plan to go out.   Shaw Hall is a block to the north and has a large smorgasbord of food. It would be a good year to have lots of apple and pear scions, since that is what we will graft on April 13. Please bring some of your favorites, and please label them.  Also, please bring an auction item if you can, and/or plan to bid generously. Speakers start at 12:30. More agenda in the previously mailed flyer and elsewhere in the MNFGA News.


We are excited to have a Grafting Class this year on April 13 at the Clarksville MSU Research Station, starting at 10:00 am. The informal during-the-lunch grafting classes have been good, but with a day dedicated to grafting, I think we can all learn a lot more. Please plan to be registered by March 23, by the end of the Spring Meeting. We will have a potluck lunch, but no business meeting or auction. Just food and grafting! We are grateful to have Mike Dority leading the grafting class and then several other instructors join for the hands-on part. Contact me for details. $10 to graft and take at least one tree home.  Open to members and non-members.


The MNFGA Summer Meeting will be at the Charles Leik Farm, near Portland, MI, on July 13, 2019. Charles has a beautiful farm and many interesting trees to tell us about. Please plan to bring a dish to pass for the potluck, your own seating and possibly an auction item.   Noon start.


The Fall meeting is in Howell at Tom Wilmoth’s farm. Thanks Tom! October 5 with a noon potluck start.


We hope that you are considering helping at the MNFGA booth at the Lansing Home & Garden Show, March 14 – 17, 2019 at the MSU Pavilion. Contact Marc Boone for more information.


Due to an unfortunate event, I ended up with some cash to buy more trees this year. The billboard owners west of our property elected to trespass and whack down 13 of our trees that they deemed were blocking view of their billboard. Wow, talk about bold! Well, I pushed and got an out of court settlement, probably much less than if we went to court, but, still, ample cash for buying trees and installing a new fence. So, I am looking forward to receiving some trees this spring! Just when I thought our collection was more than I had ever imagined, it is growing with some new cultivars: persimmons, apricots, quince, seaberry, autumn olive, honeyberry and mulberry. I was sad and pretty upset to have the 13 trees killed (one was a 25+ year old catalpa tree (the only catalpa on our property)), but, the new trees will help ease the pain. Plus, 100 cedar trees to be used for wind break and privacy screen. Any new trees going in at your place?   I am hoping for good rains this year to reduce the amount of watering for the new trees.


I plan to be a student at the grafting class. There are a pair of crabapple trees in downtown Sault St. Marie that produce the most delicious 1 ¼” diameter apples. Usually, the trees are loaded from top to bottom. Now, is it due to the cool weather in Sault St. Marie, or are these apples just naturally worm resistant, I do not know. But, of the dozens of these apples I have picked (with the owner’s permission!), I have not found a worm and hardly an outer blemish. I grabbed some live wood from one of them in October, while on vacation, with the leaves still green. They were stored in the greenhouse, standing upright in water all fall. Now, will the scions from these, presently in our refrigerator, graft successfully in the spring? The experiment is afoot!


On the other side of the spectrum: there is an article in Farm Show magazine about a fellow in Wisconsin who has planted between 25,000 and 30,000 apple seeds in the last 27 years. Grafting clones the good fruit we enjoy. Seeds produce a whole new tree. Of the many trials he has done, he has two that are patented and licensed to growers and seem to be doing well. He has an additional few that are looking promising. There are some interesting characteristics he is finding, such as one that slices and does not turn brown for literally months. I eat an apple much faster than that, but I imagine some restaurants would like that trait.


For those of you with a production/profit goal in mind, you might be interested to know that MNFGA was contacted about providing our information to a website that is under development. Kaitie Adams is looking to put growers in touch with buyers. You can learn more at


The 2019 Adopt-A-Highway dates are April 13 – 21, July 13 – 21 and September 21 – 29.   MNFGA’s 2.6-mile section of I-96 touches our property here in Eagle. Considering EB and WB, there are 5.2 miles of I-96. If you are willing to volunteer a few hours, please contact me. I will be happy to walk as much of it as anyone is willing anytime during any of those weeks. We will not do the whole thing in one shot.


We will review the current Nut Evaluation chart at the March 23 meeting. If you want, the chart can be emailed to you after the meeting. And, anytime you want to add some nuts to the chart, please find a way to get them into my hands.


As much as we enjoy our homegrown fruits and nuts, we must always be diligent about protecting them for future generations. Grafting and nut evaluations are important parts of preserving the best. So also is being wise about importing new plants onto our properties. The Thousand Canker Disease is very real and very deadly to black walnuts. Likewise, Asian Chestnut Gall Wasp is in Michigan and is a threat to the chestnut trees. PLEASE do not be sneaky in any way and circumvent any of the laws and restrictions placed upon plant material movement into, around and out of Michigan. Literally, the lives of our trees depend on everyone doing the right thing. I remain brokenhearted that the huge, straight as a string ash saw logs in our woods are dead and only usable as firewood. We must help prevent disease spread however we can. Please do your part to help spread the word.


Wow, as I said, succinct I am not! I hope that you have gleaned something of use from all of my ramblings!  


Happy nut and fruit growing.


Dennis Strahle

MNFGA President