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Midwest Fruit Explorers
Garden Club for Backyard Fruit Growers
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Introduction Blueberries North Apple Bed Panaromic View Dwarf Conclusion
Gene's Answers Train a Mini-Dwarf Favorite Apples Map of Backyard

MidFEx, short for Midwest Fruit Explorers, is a non-profit organization of amateur backyard fruit growing enthusiasts.  Most of our members live in the counties surrounding Chicago.

Gene’s 40” apple tree (click to take a tour)
We are crazy about the best tasting, most flavorful fruits that grow well here. We are also interested in growing special, superior and unusual fruits regardless of their appearance or commercial appeal.  This includes little known varieties of apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes and nuts; and more unusual fruits such as the pawpaw, mulberry, persimmon, fig, juneberry, Asian pear, and hardy kiwi.  Our members locate, graft, propagate, test, grow and swap these superior fruiting plants, and then get together and share their knowledge.

MidFEx has a video depository located at midfex at vimeo.com.  Here you will find videos covering topics such as t-bud/chip bud grafting techniques.

Members receive the Grapevine, our periodic newsletter.
The September 2019 Grapevine was distributed to email recipients on 9/26/19 and mailed to USPS recipients on 9/27/19. Archived copies of the Grapevine can be viewed on the Members Only page.
  • Annual Business Meeting
    Event Description: What better way to chase away the winter chill than with a steaming bowl of homemade soup?

    Our annual business meeting will begin with our annual Soup Bowl Luncheon.  Potluck hot lunch will be followed by election of officers, other club business, and much gabbing about fruit growing as usual.

    Also - The Cosnow Media Awards for Excellence in Fruit-Growing Education.  Watch videos recommended by members.

    Date: Saturday January 12, 2020
    Time: 1:00pm - 5:00pm
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This is a member only event.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Recent Events
  • Apple Cider Social
    Event Description: Cider pressing the old fashioned way with MidFEx’s own cider presses.

    Date: Sunday November 3, 2019 (Note - Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 4)
    Time: 10am - until we run out of apples

    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • 2019 Harvest Festival  
    Event Description: The Fall Harvest Festival at the Chicago Botanic Gardens is our largest public event, fund raiser, and membership drive all rolled into one.  It’s a fun exciting experience and a great opportunity to socialize and network with MidFExers while learning the virtues of growing your own fruit.  Members bring in fruit for display, and on Sunday starting at 2pm, people are invited to sample the display fruit.  [Harvest Fest]

    MidFEx will be selling wonderful tasting less commonly known apples, fruit butters, and apple cider.  We will also be demonstrating cider pressing and answering any questions you have about growing fruit.

    Styles/Images/bulletList.gif Show Date & Time: Saturday October 19, 2019 10am - 4:30pm
    Styles/Images/bulletList.gif Show Date & Time: Sunday October 20, 2019 10am - 4:30pm
    Location: Chicago Botanic Garden
    Directions: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges.  Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden

    Event Details: This event is open to the public.
  • Summer Pruning Workshop
    Event Description: This will be a follow-up to the winter dormant pruning session on April 14th of this year. These trees had been neglected for several years so attendees will get hand-on experience with renewal training.  Please join us even if you did not attend the April session.

    Date: Sunday, August 25, 2019
    Time: 11 am
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.

  • Summer Picnic
    Event Description: The Summer Picnic is a time for MidFEx to come together for a fun afternoon.  Jeff’s and Mary’s home orchard is truly a family project. On their standard residential lot, their young orchard has 4 cherries, 2 peach, 2 pear, and 8 apple trees, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries strawberries, many perennials and a lovely Koi pond.

    The meal will be served at noon and the club will provide the main entree, beverage and dinnerware. The side dishes and desserts are pot luck, so it is time for you to show off your cooking and/or baking skills and bring something to share.

    Volunteers should arrive around 10 am to set up. Lunch will be served at noon. The business meeting will start at 1.

    Also on the agenda for the picnic:
      
    Silent Auction:  Bring your surplus gardening related items to the picnic for auction. Examples include fruit trees and non-fruiting plants, along with books and gardening related tools. Then bid on some truly unique items and take home some bargains for your garden.  Members often graft more trees than they have room for (for insurance) and donate their surplus successes to the auction. Many also take this opportunity to divide those overly crowded garden plants knowing their donations will go to good homes. Proceeds from the auction benefit the MidFEx treasury.

    Budding Demonstration:  Get an up-close look at summer budding techniques.  Ask questions and get answers from experienced members.

    Budwood Exchange: Share budwood of desirable or unusual varieties with other members to try your own hand with summer budding.  Look for budwood collection and storage instructions in the Grapevine.

    Date: Sunday July 14,2019
    Time: Setup - 10am, Lunch - Noon
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Top Working and Reworking Apple Trees Workshop

    Event Description: Oriana will be leading this seminar on top working some common variety apple trees over to cider varieties.  She will also be demonstrating methods to recover mature apple trees that have been incorrectly pruned in the past.

    Date: Sunday April 28, 2019
    Time: 9:30 am until 3 pm
    Location: See the Members Only page
    Directions: See the Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is reserved for members and guests of members.  See the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Pruning Workshop

    Event Description: MidFEx pruning workshops provide a unique opportunity to hear varying pruning techniques and philosophies discussed and see them demonstrated.  We will be pruning to rejuvenate mature apple and pear trees that have been neglected.

    You may inevitably be faced with what to do with an old apple or pear tree which has not been pruned for say ten years. What do you do? How do you approach the task? We will try to determine how to prune these trees.

    Date: Sunday April 14, 2019
    Time: 11 am
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is reserved for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Grafting Workshop: Session #2
    Event Description: Find out what grafting fruit tress is all about.  Learn the the whys and hows with experienced grafters.  We will also have an impressive amount of scion wood available for grafting.  The purpose of the grafting workshop is to learn how to graft. Nonmember beginners will learn how to graft selected apple varieties on apple rootstock.  If you’d like more information about grafting see the Grafting Page.

    Date: Sunday March 31, 2019
    Setup Time:  9:00 am to 12 noon.  For MidFEx members only to help setup or if you’ve had any problems with your past grafts or grafting techniques, then let us help. We will have some of our most skilled members on hand from 11:00-12:00 to answer questions and assist you.
    Afternoon Session:  THIS SESSION IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and the less experienced or novice grafter. Please arrive on time. Lecture begins at 1:00 sharp. Workshop will last until about 4:00 pm.
    Location: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.  Go to the Linnaeus Room in the Regenstein Center building.
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges. If you are not a member of the Botanic Gardens you will have to pay the parking fee.  Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden
    Event Details: THE AFTERNOON EVENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, but only the individuals actually grafting fruit trees will be allowed in the grafting classroom.  Friends, spouses, and children are welcome to explore the grounds during the sessions.
    Costs:  Our workshop and guidance are free. However you will need to buy rootstock if you want to take home a tree. We will have dwarfing apple rootstock available. Cost is $5 each with free scion wood for MidFEx members.  Non-members pricing is $5 which includes two pieces of scion wood of their choice. Unless rootstocks were preordered, each attendee will be limited to three (3) rootstocks each.  Grafting requires a very sharp knife with a 2-3 inch blade. Bring your own medium-size pocket knife--we can sharpen it for you if needed, or purchase one at the workshop. Other supplies are available for purchase if you would like to continue honing your grafting skills after the workshop is over.

    Maps and directions
  • Grafting Workshop: Session #1
    Event Description: MidFEx members only.  Find out what grafting fruit tress is all about.  Learn the the whys and hows with experienced grafters.  We will also have an impressive amount of scion wood available for grafting.  If you’d like more information about grafting see the Grafting Page.

    Date: Sunday March 24,2019
    Setup Time:  9:00 am to 12 noon.  For MidFEx members only to help setup, prepare rootstocks and to sort scion wood. No experience necessary to help out and much good fruit growing conversation to be had.
    Afternoon Session:  1:00 pm - 4:00 pm  Due to space limitations this session is limited to members only and especially intended for less experienced MidFEx members and their guests. Please arrive on time. Lecture begins at 1:00 sharp. Workshop will last until about 4:00 pm.
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only Page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only Page
    Event Details: This event is open to members and guests of members only.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only Page for additional details.
  • Kurle Memorial Lecture
    Event Description:
    Gene Yale of MidFEx
    Big Orchards on Small Lots

    This year’s speaker is our own Gene Yale who started growing fruit trees on his small residential lot in Skokie 35 years ago. Currently, Gene has 178 beautiful extra-dwarf apple trees (3-5 feet tall), 6 full-sized blueberry bushes, and ornamental shrubs. ABC News says he has the “biggest little orchard since the days of Johnny Appleseed.” According to Gene - if you have room for a rose bush, you have room for a dwarf apple tree!

    Date: Sunday February 24,2019
    Time: 1pm
    Location: Chicago Botanic Garden
    Directions: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.  
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges. Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden

    The Kurle Memorial Lecture is offered annually in honor of Bob and Mary Kurle, conveners of the Midwest Fruit Explorers. Bob was known as one of the top fruit and nut enthusiasts in the U.S. He networked actively with fruit and nut growers all over the world. In the 1970s, Bob’s displays at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show focused the interest of ordinary gardeners on dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees, hybrid nuts, and promoted growing the best fruit varieties suited to the Chicagoland area. He appeared in Organic Gardening and the Chicago Tribune.

    Event Details: This event is open to members and non-members.
Midwest Fruit Explorers, P.O. Box 93, Markham, IL 60428-0093
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