Cooperative Extension Offers Tree Fruit Course

Retired county extension agent Marvin Owings teaching a pruning class

By Gina Malone

The Henderson County Cooperative Extension will offer a Master Pomology (study and cultivation of tree fruits) Volunteer Program beginning Tuesday, January 16, and running for nine weeks. The registration deadline is Friday, December 15, and the class will be limited to the first 28 people who register. Classes will be held on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (with some afternoon labs possible as well) at the Extension Office in Jackson Park. Cost is $125, which covers supplies and training material. Students will receive more than 30 hours of comprehensive tree fruit training.

“The Master Pomology Class is a great way to get a more in-depth study of the science of pomology,” says county extension director William Kelley. “Although you may only have fruit trees in your yard, many people want to know more in-depth information on how these plants function and how to care for them. This is a great way to become your neighborhood expert on tree fruit.”

This course, the first and only program of its kind in the US, has been offered for more than 25 years and is structured to be beneficial to anyone with an interest in tree fruit. “The information will be basic enough for all attendees to grasp,” Kelley says, “and will lay the foundation for more advanced topics.” Topics covered in the course include soils, pollination, fertilization and nutrition, disease and insect management, pruning, fruit thinning, harvesting and tree morphology and physiology. Because the course is so specialized, it is only offered every three to four years, depending on demand.

Graduates of the course receive a certificate and become representative volunteers for the N.C. Cooperative Extension in order to share what they have learned with others. They must volunteer a minimum of 40 hours. One way to gain volunteer hours is by helping to maintain the Variety Block test orchard by pruning, harvesting, completing taste testing evaluations and providing data entry and technical assistance. The Variety Block, Kelley says, is two acres of apple trees that include numerous varieties. “This block is used to gather information on current varieties and also to make grafts that may result in new varieties for this area.” Graduates of the program work alongside technically trained volunteers collecting field data that is then published for commercial growers.

Other volunteer opportunities include working the taste test booths at the North Carolina Apple Festival in September and at Farm City Day in October. Volunteers may also working in the extension office assisting homeowners with tree fruit questions. “We look forward to having a new class of folks interested in learning more about apples, peaches and pears,” Kelley says. “It’s a great class.”

To receive an application, contact the Henderson County Cooperative Extension at 828.697.4891 or email The N.C. Extension Office in Hendersonville is located at 100 Jackson Park Road.

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