Rematriation Partnership: Orchard Establishment and Care

Progress report for ONC23-123

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2023: $45,238.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2025
Grant Recipient: Seed Savers Exchange
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Cindy Goodner
Seed Savers Exchange
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Project Information


The Rematriation Partnership: Orchard Establishment and Care project, will allow Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) to educate and support three indigenous partner farms with establishing heritage apple orchards. While apples were not historically a source of food for Native Americans, apples were introduced after European emigration to North America and after the forced relocation of indigenous tribes and communities. The partner farms identified in this proposal are seeking to establish orchards on their properties, and Seed Savers Exchange has both the heritage scion wood of over 1,000 varieties of apples and the expertise to help farm partners graft varieties of their choice, plant, and prune and maintain new trees. After orchards are established years later and bare fruit, the farms will enjoy perennial food crops for generations to come and will be able to share the complex story of the connections with apples and their family history. Passing on the knowledge of how to graft apple trees will also empower the partner farms to continue to share their chosen apple varieties with others in a self-sustaining and self-sufficient manner. Partner farms are located in the upper midwest including the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Project Objectives:

Objectives of the The Rematriation Partnership: Orchard Establishment and Care project include: 

  1. support Indigenous agricultural sustainability, food access, and economic opportunity
  2. select apple varieties from the SSE collection to graft and plant at each of the three indigenous partner farms
  3. teach the skill of tree grafting and consult on establishing new orchards in each of the three indigenous partner farm locations
  4. educate indigenous farm partners on the long term care of heritage orchards
  5. educate networks of identified farm partners, SSE, other key audiences, and a broader segment of the public about the intersection of apples in Indigenous cultures


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Rebecca Webster (Educator)
  • Jason Montgomery-Riess (Educator)
  • Jennifer Falck (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Tours
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

7 Farmers participated
5 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

 In the inaugural year of the project, the primary focus was on instructing partner farmers in the art of grafting apple trees and nurturing them in nursery care during their initial year of planting. Partner farmers convened at Seed Savers Exchange for an immersive, hands-on workshop where, under the mentorship of SSE staff, they personally grafted apple trees using scion wood sourced from our collection.

Subsequently, the grafted trees were transported back to the farms and carefully planted in nursery settings. Orchard manager Jamie Hanson provided virtual guidance on the proper care and maintenance of these newly established trees within an orchard environment. Looking ahead to the next phase of the project, Seed Savers Exchange intends to host another workshop to educate farm partners on the technique of pruning their maturing trees. However, we recognize the importance of allowing sufficient time for the trees to mature further before introducing this next skill.

Learning Outcomes

8 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Farm partners from each of the partner sites traveled to Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in April 2023 for an instructional Apple Grafting Workshop. Preservation director Michael Washburn, orchard manager Jamie Hanson, and SSE board advisor Lindsay Lee coach and instructed attendees how to graft their own apple trees.

  • Farm partners traveled home with the newly grafted trees and worked with SSE orchard manager Jamie Hanson to learn how to plant and care for the young trees in a nursery environment.

Project Outcomes

3 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Apple Grafting Workshop at Seed Savers Exchange April 2023

Farmers from all three partner sites traveled to Seed Savers Exchange in April, 2023 from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Partnering farmers included:
Dream of Wild Health (multi-tribal initiative), Jessika Greendeer, Seed Keeper and Farm Manager - lead (Washington County, MN)
Ukwakhwa, Oneida Reservation, Dr. Rebecca Webster, Oneida Farmer -lead (Outagamie County, WI)
Kahulahele Farmstead, Kayukwalote, Jennifer Falck, owner - lead (Outagamie County, WI)

Apple Grafting Workshop at Seed Savers Exchange April 2023

Workshop attendees learned first hand from Seed Savers Exchange staff and advisors about how to reproduce apple trees by grafting scion wood onto rootstock, reproducing trees that are true to type.

Apple Grafting Workshop at Seed Savers Exchange April 2023

All participants were supplied with tools needed, and practiced grafting trees themselves learning the new skill.

Farmers returned to their home farms, organizations, and communities with freshly grafted trees to plant. In the weeks to follow, SSE orchard manager Jamie Hanson worked with partners virtually to teach them how to plant the new tress and care for them during their first year in a nursery setting.

The hands-on learning approach and mentorship provided by Seed Savers Exchange is teaching partner farmers to learn the process of grafting trees and early nursery care. These skills can be used and enhanced with other grafting and orchard projects. Once the orchards are replanted in their permanent locations, the farms will reap the benefits of  stewarding rare apple varieties, enjoying all the benefits of adding apple trees to the ecosystem of their farm, and providing future economic opportunity through the production of apples.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.