By Emma Castleberry
Our region will be home to 500 new native fruit trees this month. That’s a really good thing, as evidenced by a story that local resident Ramin Sadeghian likes to tell. Three WNC farmers plant a persimmon orchard. They sell their persimmons at a few farmers markets and to restaurants. Their crop grows annually, and they start selling wholesale to other food makers in the region. Other farmers see their success and start planting persimmon orchards of their own. Persimmons become part of the local cuisine, appearing on menus and in beverages and grocery store aisles. “Eventually a farm in Illinois sees the success of WNC’s craft food scene and converts 1,000 acres of corn into a native persimmon orchard,” says Ramin. “An industry is reborn, ecology promoted and wealth generated. I used persimmons as an example in this story, yet you can choose any native fruit tree and have the same result.”
For the past several years, Ramin has made an annual wholesale purchase of about 500 fruit trees from state subsidized nurseries around the country. He usually gives them away to friends, neighbors, schools, hunters and farmers, but this year, he’s targeting folks who intend to sell the crops in the marketplace.
“Selfishly,” he says, “I like to eat and want to see these flavors incorporated in our incredible food scene. Just imagine what our local chefs and beverage producers could do with these crops.”
Ramin only purchases trees that are native to the region and easy to grow, including persimmons, mulberries, serviceberries, aronias and pawpaws. “Zero experience is necessary to plant and maintain them,” says Ramin. He estimates that one acre of these trees requires 40 hours or less of labor in the first year and much less in following years. Ramin gives the trees away for free, as well as his design and consultation services to ensure that the trees thrive.
Michael RiCharde, owner of Good Wheel Farm, worked with Ramin at East Fork Farm. “His enthusiasm and glee for trees was contagious,” says RiCharde. RiCharde reached out to Ramin about a piece of his farm property that was prone to flooding. “I didn’t really know what to do with that kind of land, but Ramin was excited about it as an opportunity to plant some native species,” RiCharde says. “Ramin has shown me that we need more people growing these plants, breeding these plants, eating these plants and selling their fruit to fully realize their potential and our potential as a region.”
While the February batch of trees is likely spoken for as of press time, email Ramin to be included on the call-out about future tree giveaways: email@example.com.