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Book Review: Good Apples: Behind Every Bite by Susan Futrell
Dan Kelly, Canton, MO

Every year, for the last twenty years or so, I pull out my favorite puzzle. My orchard. If you are in the business of growing food for the rest of us, or yourself, you begin pulling down that box, dumping out the contents, and begin flipping up the pieces.

Susan Futrell in her book Good Apples: Behind Every Bite has looked inside those boxes and added a few ‘pieces’ of her own, to bring us inside of what historically constitutes an orchard.

Futrell chronicles the whole migration of apples with generous slices of its history from Almaty in Kazakhstan, Vavilov’s discovery of the apple’s origins and his efforts to preserve them for our future. She cites us into America with John Bunker’s book Not Farm from the Tree: A Brief History of Apples and Orchards of Palermo, Maine 1804- 2004, with the arrival and planting apples by Scandinavians in 1550.

Good Apples picks up from her home base in Iowa with amazing accounts of early pioneers establishing fruiting industries in the state long before the soybean, and characters like Henderson Leulling, moving his established nursery, in wagons, west to the Willemette River Valley.

Contemporaneously, from Iowa she goes both east and west. The book visits diverse operations, some just like her readers may have, holding them up to the light, the day in and day out of planning, running, succeeding, and sometimes failing.  Futrell’s many aspects found inside include; labor, markets, pesticides and trends now that growers face, sometimes before and sometimes after the fact.

From Good Apples:

“They thrive in backyards, farmyards, urban orchards, commercial orchards, nurseries, parks. Whether abandoned, haphazard, or well intended, all of them are immigrants.”

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