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Fruition’s Apple Mentors: Heron Breen

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Heron is a phenomenal collaborator, teacher, student, friend and community builder. That’s Heron in the middle, planting Fruition’s first 20 apple trees in 2021 alongside our dear friends Maddie Halpert (left) and Sarah Hastings (right).

Friends, meet Heron!

Hopefully you’ll see him here on the farm one day…

…and in the meantime, here is just a tiny taste of why we love him so, so very much.

We met Heron in 2013 and promptly adored his kindness as well as unabashed, generous brilliance as a farmer, seedkeeper, communicator and visionary, transformative humxn. We’ve been grand friends ever since! Continually in awe of the many (and joyously extraordinary) talents of Heron, we shouldn’t have been surprised but were entirely delighted to learn, as we began to learn about trees, that Heron has been a student of trees since his earliest life.

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That Heron is mentoring us here at Fruition is a gift beyond measure and here is a tiny taste of Heron for you:

Heron, how many years have you been growing with trees?

 My playground as a child was the woods and stream surrounding my house in rural Central Maine. I have watched the woods change, as I have changed. My father double-handedly pruned a large orchard in Central Maine for many years. These were full size standards, and I hauled brush and did rodent prevention to keep the trees from being girded. It was very cold, and my father had so many different strategies and clothing layers to stay working in all sorts of Winter weather. I was pretty whiney and ate my frozen peanut butter and honey sandwiches shivering.

Is there a ‘moment’ or transformative experience that deepened your relationship with trees/orchards? 

About 20 years ago, I was on a ladder taking cuttings from a huge ancient delicious Red Mulberry in my area….and got that metaphysical golden feeling of “This is what I should be doing with my existence.” Now I just have to learn to listen.

How do trees help humxns navigate this moment of our species’ existence?

Plants and Trees are our Elders; all of our sustenance is derived from them knowing how to eat directly from the Sun and natural elements. Trees face life & death without running away. They give unconditionally: no tree ever says “you are not of the right gender/skin color/’correct thinking’, I will not share my fruit with you!!”

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What is the most remarkable thing about trees for your imagination? 

I recommend folx read “Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card to really blow open your imagination around Trees.

If everyone could know one thing about trees, what would it be? 

There are innumerable interspecies hybrids of Trees that emerge regularly and naturally. It is such a live changing experience to find a hybrid Maple or Oak creating the future.

What is your favorite way to eat apples? 

A Northern Spy at 7PM on a cold October or November night right after the tree is like a reminder of where the center of the universe is. Barring that, eating an apple with sharp cheddar, or in apple crisp!

And your favorite addition to apple pie?

Cranberries!

Is there anything more American than apple pie (lol!)? 

Fresh Apple Cider and homemade molasses doughnuts.

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What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned growing apple trees? 

Having prized apple trees in my area cut down by others not knowing. “Don’t it always seem to go? That you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Learn to graft and don’t hesitate to start the gift for those coming along after you.


Do you have a favorite author/mentor/podcast/poem/resource you’d love folx interested in apples/orcharding to know about?

Wildwood by Roger Deakin


Is there anything else you’d love to share, apple/tree related or not, that makes you come alive? That makes you, you?

Apple pie or Crisp is breakfast, lunch, and dessert. But pie and crisp for breakfast with milk or yogurt makes me most happy.

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Heron, we love you!

And we love growing by your side, under the shade of apple branches, pruning in the frigid winter before a ski…

…and let’s share breakfast really, really soon ~

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,

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& the whole Fruition crew

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