Happy Johnny Appleseed Day – 20% Off Apple Trees

March 11 is a day to recognize a man who is perhaps the best known American orchardist and nurseryman – John Chapman.

In the early 1800’s, John, better known today as “Johnny Appleseed”, traveled extensively through the midwest, much of which was then newly settled territory.  He acquired land and planted apple trees, leaving them in care of neighbors to sell trees for a share of the profits and returning every few years to maintain and care for the orchards.

The popular image of Johnny Appleseed is a mix of idealized figure and historical fact.  He was a rather eccentric figure, frequently travelling barefoot, with clothing ranging from threadbare cast-offs to rough homemade floursack shirts and his tin cooking pot for a hat.  He would sell his trees for a profit when he could, but would often barter for goods he needed, and his passion for seeing trees planted and his friendly nature would even lead him to sometimes give trees away to those too poor to afford them.  He was friendly with the Native Americans he met in his travels, and a supporter of animal rights – even becoming a vegetarian in later life.  Much of his unusual behavior was rooted in his religious beliefs; he was a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg, and believed in living simply and kindly.  In his travels, he would also spend time with settlers, reading with them and sharing his faith and Sedenborg’s religious tracts.

Unlike the popular myths, he didn’t plant randomly; nor were his trees primarily for edible fruit.  He established nurseries to sell the trees, and planted ungrafted seedling trees whose fruit was best suited for cider making.  Though he lived simply, he was by no means impoverished; at the time of his death he owned more than 1200 acres of nursery land.  Because he opposed cutting or grafting trees, he didn’t develop any of the apple varieties we use today, but the diverse legacy of his orcharding contributed much to the genetics of later selection and breeding work.

Take a moment on March 11 – National Johnny Appleseed Day – to remember an American icon, one whose reality is as interesting as the legends he inspired.  Enjoy a drink from your local ciderhouse, and consider planting an apple tree or two in honor of John Chapman.

– Darren Morgan