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Editor Travis J. Callahan


Larry Stevenson Announcement 2015

Southern Fruit Fellowship, in conjunction with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the Texas Rare Fruit Growers, and the Gulf Coast Fruit Study Group, will have our Annual Meeting at College Station, Texas, on Monday, October 5th and Tuesday, the 6th. A&M has had a successful fruit event there for the last three years, so this year we’ll join in to make it even bigger and better. The meeting will be at the College Station Hilton Hotel, (http://www3.hilton.com/…/hilton-college-station…/index.html).

The Texas Fruit Conference room rate is $145/night. Many details are still being worked out, but here is the information as of May 18th: the registration fee will be $80 in advance through http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu, $90 onsite registration. The fees cover food at the welcome reception on Monday evening and lunch on Tuesday. Conference registration will start at noon on Monday with a full afternoon of lectures, and a welcome reception. Tuesday will consist of a full day of lectures, probably followed by a tour of A&M’s peach orchards that evening. They’re doing some interesting work on low-chill peaches.

SFF and TRFG are to supply two of these lecturers; get in touch with Dr. Natelson, (eanatelson@att.net), if you’re interested in giving one yourself. I’m pretty sure we’ll come up with some more tours, likely Monday morning or evening. Messina Hoff Winery is located there, and likes tours, and there is a jujube planting nearby. 

If you care to hang around another day, A&M AgriLife Extension will be having a high tunnel conference on Wednesday, Oct. 7th.

There will be vendors and exhibitors set up at the Hilton, and SFF is expected to have a booth there. We’ll try to sign up some new members, with copies of the Newsletter and sign-up forms on hand. Sometimes during the Meeting we’ll probably want to give some grafting demonstrations, either as a lecture or at our booth, and we’ll need help to man the booth, so think about it.

The Hilton will be our primary gathering place. We’re checking on alternate lodgings nearby.  There are several hotels nearby that may be more reasonably priced. 

I’m sure some of us will be arriving Sunday evening, and I expect we’ll have some impromptu get-togethers and fruit tastings then, as well as on Monday and Tuesday night. We’ll look for some nearby restaurants where we might all dine at the same time. If you have fruit, homemade wine, or interesting plants to show off or trade, this is the place to bring it. We may be able to sell plants through our SFF booth. I’m looking forward to meeting my Texas buddies – they grow some intriguing tropical and semi-tropical plants down around Houston, stuff most of us have never heard of before. 

Please be aware that there is a scheduled football game at Texas A&M against Mississippi State University on Saturday, October 3rd, in case you will be arriving on Saturday or Sunday. For this reason, it would be best to make reservations early.


2014 Southern Fruit Fellowship in South Carolina!

The 2014 Southern Fruit Fellowship Annual Meeting will be held in Florence, South Carolina, in the vicinity of McKenzie Farms, South Carolina’s premier (and one of the fartherest north on the East Coast) citrus farm.  Stan McKenzie and South Carolina Extension Service Agent Tony Melton will be our hosts. Proposed attractions are: tours of commercial kiwi, peach, and citrus operations; a visit to Moore Farms Botanical Garden; and presentations from a wild fruit expert and an entomologist. Please join us! (Bring fruit).

The meeting will occur August 21st – 24th, 2014.  Our central meeting spot will be the Pee Dee Research and Education Center (PDREC) in Florence.  Our designated motel is the Holiday Inn Express in Florence, with America’s Best Value Inn as an alternate.  There’s an RV park and campground just down the road.
The registration fee will be $25 per adult.  Children of attendees, well, we might let them sneak in for free.  Anyone interested in fruit-growing is welcomed to join with us; we’ll try to sign you up as a SFF member, of course (membership is only $15 per year), and, yes, the editors will try to solicit articles from you, but membership is not required, only an interest in learning about our mutual hobby.  You’ll find some of the South’s top experts on fruit-growing at this meeting; it’s a good place to ask questions or find a mentor.

Below is the proposed agenda:
Thursday, August 21st
Thursday afternoon, River Run Farms, a kiwi operation, will be open for us to tour.  It’s off Interstate 95, about an hour and a half south of Florence.  Since it’s so far from our venue, we’ve decided to make this an optional tour, before the Meeting actually starts; those on the way to the Meeting from south of Florence may want to allow time to see this operation – anyone ever seen a commercial kiwi farm before?

We’ll congregate at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center from 5:00 - 7:00 PM.  Registration fees will be collected there.  You can also pay your dues, if you want.  At 7:00 PM, we’ll go to Petro’s Iron Skillet Restaurant for our first meal together (price of meals is not included in the registration fee).  If anyone brings any interesting wine, mead, or cider (no moonshine) to brag on, we might sample it later at the Holiday Inn Express.

Friday, August 22nd
8:00 AM: Leave for Moore Farms Botanical Garden.
10:30 AM: Leave Moore Farms and head to McKenzie Farms.
12:00 PM: Lunch at famous Schoolhouse BBQ.
2:00 PM: Lecture on native fruits at the PDREC.
3:00 PM: Presentation from an entomologist.
4:00 PM: Business meeting, general discussion.

Saturday, August 23rd
8:00 AM: Leave for McLeod Farms, a commercial peach operation.  They have a big packing shed, blackberries, row crops, and a museum with old cars, tractors, etc.
12:00 PM: Lunch at Big’s Restaurant near McLeod Farms.
1:00 PM: Leave McLeod Farms.
2:00 PM: Indoor meetings at the PDREC.
4:00 PM: Tour of McKenzie Farms.
7:00 PM: Supper at the Compass Seafood Restaurant.

Sunday, August 24th
Go home, or hang around and talk a while longer.  Myrtle Beach is 100 miles to the southeast; some of you may wish to visit there, lots of touristy things to do there.  Eat some seafood.
Florence is a thriving little city which happens to be on the main interstate route to the Northeast, so it’s a big stopover for travelers.  SFF has reserved a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and we’ll get a slight group discount, but there are plenty of alternate motels nearby.  We encourage you to make reservations as soon as possible, though, just to make sure.  For those flying, Florence has an airport with connections to Charlotte and Atlanta.
The Pee Dee Research and Education Center will be our central gathering spot.  They have some demonstration and experimental crops we can see, and it’ll provide us with a nice air-conditioned place to meet during the hot part of the day.  They have an Outdoor Education Trail we may enjoy.

River Run Farms, 187 River Run Drive, Vance, SC 29163; Phone: (803) 492-9878.  Commercial kiwi farm.
McLeod Farms, 29247 Highway 151, McBee, SC 29101; Phone: (843) 335-8611.  Large commercial peach farm with 650 acres and 22 different varieties of peaches.  Has been in the family since 1916, fourth generation peach growers.  They have developed their own variety, Cary Mac.

McKenzie Farms and Nursery, 2115 Olanta Hwy., Scranton, SC 29591; Phone: (843) 389-4831; www.mckenzie-farms.com.  Vegetables and forty different varieties of cold-hardy citrus, eucalyptus, and palms.

Moore Farms Botanical Garden, 100 New Zion Road, Lake City, SC 29560; Phone: (843) 210-7582; http://moorefarmsbg.org.  Fifty acres of gardens that inform, inspire, and delight.  By combining cutting edge horticultural practices and rural gardening traditions, they have reinterpreted what it means to be a Southern garden.  Their mission is to promote research and education in horticulture, agriculture, and forestry for the benefit of the people of South Carolina and beyond.

Pee Dee Research and Education Center, 2200 Pocket Road, Florence, SC 29506; Phone: (843) 662-3526; www.clemson.edu/peedeerec.  Home to top-quality research in areas that are of particular importance to South Carolina residents.  It is an integral part of Clemson University’s Public Service activities, including the Agricultural Research and Forestry system and the Cooperative Extension Service, with nine resident faculty and fifty support personnel.

Florence RV Park, 1115 E. Campground Rd., Florence, SC 29506; Phone: (843) 665-7007; www.florencervpark.com.
Holiday Inn Express, 2101 Florence Harllee Blvd., Hwy 327, Florence, SC 29506; Phone: (843) 629-9779;  www.hiexpress.com/florencei-95. Angela J. Barrentine, General Manager.

 There is a registration form on Page 23 of the SFF  newsletter.  Please fill it out and send it with your payment (checks or money orders made payable to SFF) to Larry Stephenson, P.O. Box 84, Carrollton, MS 38917 as soon as possible. We’d like to get an idea how many will be coming, to better prepare.

If you care to volunteer to help run this meeting, contact Tony Melton, Florence County Extension Service, 2685 S. Irby St., Florence, SC 29505 or by e-mail at amelton@clemson.edu; or Stan McKenzie, 2115 Olanta Highway, Scranton, SC 29591,or by e-mail at citrusman99@hotmail.com; or Larry Stephenson, larrystephenson60@att.net.  We’ll probably need a few helpers to get folks registered and pass out maps and directions and such.

If there is any SFF business anyone cares to discuss, or any questions, this is the place to bring it.  If any member has a presentation or demonstration they would like to make, let us know, so we can schedule an appropriate time.  We should have ample time at the PDREC for group discussions.
I think most of these growers experienced some damage from the severe cold we enjoyed last winter; for those of us in SFF, it’ll be interesting to see how they have pruned/repaired/replanted.

The Pee Dee Region is warmish in August; those of you from cooler climates had best bring their short britches.





The 2012 annual meeting of the Southern Fruit Fellowship  was  held Thursday evening, August 9, 2012   through Saturday noon , August 11, 2012   in and around the south Mississippi   town of Poplarville.  

On Thursday night there was  an informal time of fellowship beginning around 6:00 P.M.  in the hotel breakfast area. Members brought lots of their fruit and fruit products for the group to sample while we visited  and shared our experiences.  Some also brought plants and cuttings to share with others. The details for the conference were handed out at that time. 



On Friday morning the group participated  in the Muscadine Field Day held at the USDA McNeil Station which is a muscadine repository containing 35-40 different muscadine cultivars.  We were able to taste the various varieties and check the data on their production that the station has kept over the years.  They are also doing research on pomegranates, blackberries and blueberries . We will go to the Thad Cochran Southern Horticulture Lab in Poplarville for lunch and talks with the scientists and station personnel that are conducting research at the stations.  After the tour  in Poplarville, we toured the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune which is the premier native plant conservatory in the southeast.  




All Pictures courtesy of Jenniffer Stephenson








All above Pictures courtesy of Jenniffer Stephenson



2012 Fall Flower & Garden Fest

The 2012 Fall Flower & Garden Fest was  held Friday and Saturday, October 5 & 6, at the Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Crystal Springs is about 25 miles south of Jackson. Hours are from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. both days and food vendors will have food and drinks available.

This is the largest home gardening show in the Southeast. Average attendance is 6,000 people over the two-day event. Admission and parking are free. The garden, grounds, seminars, and one of the tour wagons are handicapped accessible.



2012 Fall Flower and Garden Fest

Larry Stephenson

12907 MS HWY 35

Carrollton , Mississippi 38917



On October 5th,  my wife and I attended the 34th Annual Fall Flower and Garden Fest at the Truck Crops Branch Experimental Station in Crystal Springs , Mississippi .  In case you don’t know, this is about the largest garden show in the Southeast, this year welcoming almost 4,000 people. There are dozens of exhibits to see, plant and nursery vendors, sample plots of vegetables and ornamentals, and short seminars on all facets of gardening. There’s something for pretty much everyone on display.  Those not attending missed a really good show.  Need another reason to go?  Southern Fruit Fellowship ( SFF ) always has a booth there – it’s become sort of a second Annual Meeting for many of us.  We sign on new members, put on grafting demonstrations, display some of our fruit, sell a few plants, arrange some scion trading, and generally have a good time doing what we like best – talking about fruit trees.  Got a new fruit to brag on?  Need something identified?  This is the place to bring it.


Last year was the first time I attended – really the first time I’d met any fellow SFF members.  I had been in SFF several years and was eager to meet some of those folks who wrote such fascinating articles in the newsletter.  I was welcomed and had a grand time discussing fruit cultivation. Don’t forget the important part of our name – we are a FELLOWSHIP, like-minded individuals united by our common interest.  It’s FUN to talk about fruit trees, and rare to find a large group of people who will not only tolerate our interest, but share it.  I was even inspired to begin writing myself.

This year I wore a nametag and got to work along with other SFF members.  My assigned duty was to entertain visitors while Carol Smith and Bonnie Thompson did the real work, setting up our displays and our membership sign-up table.  This suited me to a tee – I really don’t need much encouragement to talk about my hobby, so I had a blast.  Now, I’m hardly a novice at fruit growing, but neither can I claim to be any kind of expert (not if I am cruelly judged by the amount of fruit produced).  Though I may not know the answer to every question, I am usually not shy about giving my opinion.  Here are some of the questions I was asked:

What is this weird fruit that look like a big green brain? Can I eat it? Osage orange (Bois d'Arc) . Nope.

Can I grow blueberries here?  You betcha ! Everyone should have some in their yard.

How can I keep deer away from my trees? Fence them, or shoot those rascals.

What kind of persimmon is this? (Point to Mr. Jesse Thompson.)

How can pomegranates be propagated? (Point to Dr. Chris Inhulsen.)

What’s a good pear for this area? (Point to Ron Hill.)

Is it hard to graft? (Point to the table where Billy Smith, Larry Force, Ron Hill, Norm Herrin, and a couple other members are giving demonstrations.)

(I did a lot of pointing.)

I have a really old pear tree in my yard that makes a big crop of soft eating pears every year. Can you tell me what kind it is? Nope, but get that lady’s e-mail and address; I’m always interested in an unusual pear.  Make sure she gets our flyer; she’s the kind of member we need.

And so it went, all day.  Pretty cool, huh? I believe I could be well employed as a salesman at a large nursery.  I was surprised at how many folks stopped at our tables; there was a constant stream of people interested in our exhibits.  Mrs. Bonnie and Mrs. Carol signed up a good many new members.  This show is one of our most lucrative recruiting spots.

Any time there’s a group of people discussing fruit, well, that’s where I’m going to be, so I really didn’t see as much of the other exhibits as I would have liked.  My wife, Jenniffer, and I did make a quick tour of the grounds.  Don’t pack a lunch for this show; there are plenty of food vendors and you can eat very well.  There were people selling all kinds of stuff for gardening and horticulture – irrigation equipment, greenhouses, pruning supplies, you name it, and also many craftsmen and small nurseries.  I did notice one trend that I approve – many nurseries offered native ornamental plants and seeds, in a huge and pleasing variety.  I suppose with all the floods and droughts we have nowadays, gardeners have had to turn to our tough and durable native specimens.

There were lots of experts on hand, giving tours of the station, classes, and seminars.  Of course, the Truck Branch Experimental Station is pretty much a Mecca for those interested in ornamental plants or vegetable gardening.  If you care to see all the different varieties of tomatoes or string beans that exist, well, there they are, all laid out and labeled in immaculately tended rows.  It’s quite a display.  These are more than sample plots; MSU does serious research here.

Could the Fallfest be improved?  Sure, next year YOU could join us at the Southern Fruit Fellowship booth; you’ll find it worth the trip, I promise. Bring fruit!  The bigger and more exotic, the better.  We like to open people’s eyes as to what can be grown, and this is a good place to do some bragging to an appreciative audience.  Many heartfelt thanks to Dr. Rick Snyder and all the hard-working staff at the research station who make this show possible each year. See you next year!

A Note from Jenniffer:

Although I’m not as nutty about fruit trees as my husband, Larry, I do enjoy watching him enjoy his hobby.  I have watched his interest and participation grow with the Southern Fruit Fellowship ( SFF )as well, and he’s right – it has been a great fellowship.  I attended last year’s Fall Flower and Garden Fest with my husband, met some of the other SFF members, and perused the grounds of the MSU Truck Branch Experimental Station.  We strolled through the vendor booths and viewed some of the vegetation that MSU was cultivating and enjoyed some great food.  This year was no different in that regard, but we also got to enjoy spending some more time with our fellowship of fruit tree fanatics that we had become closer with.  They have become like an extended family, many of them older than us and giving sage advice from their years of failures and successes growing fruit trees.  This year, we arrived a bit earlier with Larry being eager to see his fruit tree buddies and be part of the learning experience for those passing by the exhibit tables.  I stood and watched him congregate with fellow SFF members and visitors as they talked about their hobbies and interests like some discuss their love of hunting, fishing, or football.  But I also looked at the day’s program of events, and decided that I would attend the Garden Mama’s Organic Strategies program.  I have been listening to Nellie Neal, better known as Garden Mama, on the radio for years.  I listen to her give gardening advise to other listeners, and I have even called in and asked my own questions or given advice to some of her other listeners.  I was glad to finally meet her in person and hear her presentation.

Well, to wrap up my impressions of this year’s Fall Flower and Garden Fest, I’ll just tell you what I have told some of the other SFF members.  My philosophy after 20 years of marriage is this:  A man with a hobby is a happy man, and I support my husband’s hobby.  I may not be as interested or as involved in being outdoors or growing fruit trees, but I can appreciate my husband’s hard work and the pleasure he gets from his hobby.  I can also enjoy the fellowship of the other fruit tree enthusiasts he has become friends with and count myself among their ranks.  They are a great group of people willing and ready to share their experiences and even the fruits of their labor.  Happy growing!



Crystal Springs Fall Fest 2012 


Mississippi State personnel conducted guided tours of the flower and vegetable gardens which are planted to be at their peak for the Garden Fest.











 The large round bale of aged hay demonstrates another way to garden.  It shows how to raise the level of gardening for people who have trouble bending.  It was placed in the AgrAbility Demonstration-Gardening Accessibility area.



  There were 68 vendors at the Garden Fest.  Approximately half of them were plant vendors who packed the area with beautiful colorful plants of all varieties for sale.



One creative vendor entertained visitors with his Gourd Banjo which he makes and sells.  

To learn more of the history of the Banza (Gourd Banjo) visit his website at www.jaybirdbanjo.com.



This vendor hand makes spoons, salad sets and bowls from different hardwoods found across the South.  He also uses different types of maple for his products.


The slip covers for pots make displaying plants easier and more colorful.


There were several vendors selling bird houses and yard art to decorate the yard.




One vendor demonstrated the grinding of corn into cornmeal and sold fresh ground cornmeal.

There are always many food and drink vendors with wonderful things to eat including homemade snacks.



Southern Fruit Fellowship has had a booth at the Garden Fest for many years where members demonstrate grafting, exhibit fruit, plants and vegetables, answer questions, sell plants and sign up new members.  A visitor views the posters showing fruit that members have grown and pictures showing the Annual Meetings at various locations across the South.





Photos Courtesy of Dr. Rick Snyder









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