Map to Hill Country Lawn and Garden Show
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Presenter: Richard Ashton
Program: 10 A.M.
"Growing Fruit in the South"
Richard Ashton has been involved in agricultural pursuits all his life. From his younger years in Texas on a grain and cattle ranch to his growing up days in the apple orchards of Oregon. In Oregon the family grew apples, rye grass and peppermint. The peppermint was pressed and the oil was used for many things from candy to cosmetics. In his college days he “worked his way” by growing alfalfa and grapes in the central valley of California. But by far most of his life was spent in Texas.
Part of the time agriculture was a sideline but he was never got away from it entirely. While working in the oil business in Texas he had grapefruit groves in the lower Rio Grande valley. He says walking through the 8,000 trees in his orchards was favorite pastime. He also had the pleasure to grow peanuts in central Texas. They taste good and the hay is great cattle feed. There’s nothing like sitting in a hay barn on a bale of peanut hay picking out the few remaining peanuts and eating them.
Although his college degree is in business he has spent most of his time associated with horticulture. He enjoys evaluating different fruit varieties. He always seems to look at a fruit variety for its commercial possibilities since he spent many years with agriculture as his livelihood.
So when researching species and varieties of fruit intended for planting an orchard on a farm he owned in central Texas he had three main criteria. He wanted a fruit that could stand some dry weather, one that would not be hurt by late spring freezes and one that would make money.
Pomegranates, apricots and jujubes were the final candidates. He knew that jujubes had only a “niche” market and he could not find any apricots that could not be hurt by late spring freezes. In all fairness he was able to find some apricot varieties that could withstand most late freezes. But by far the fruit with the most potential was pomegranates.
A chance happening put him in contact with Barbara Baer. He had read an article she had written in Orion magazine and got in contact with her. It seems that she had been in contact with a Dr. Levin in Turkmenistan and found that he had collected over 1100 varieties of pomegranates from” the area of origin” of the pomegranate. Richard was interested in these varieties because there were cold hardy varieties within the collection. His central Texas area was just slightly on the cooler side for pomegranates. Some winters get as low as 10 degrees F. in his area.
This started Richard on a path to where he with others he recruited to evaluate most of the central Asian pomegranates that were brought to this country. It has been a 8 year journey. Today the cooperative he founded – Texas Pomegranate Growers Cooperative, Inc. has over 40 grower members. Orchards of pomegranates are going in all central, south and west Texas. The goal of the cooperative is 5,000 acres of pomegranates with a state of the art processing plant. The Texas Department of Agriculture, the extension service of Texas A&M University and the USDA have all helped get this growing industry moving. The bottom line is that all this would not have been possible without pomegranate varieties from Dr. Levin’s Turkmenistan collection. All the main varieties recommended by the cooperative are from this south central Asian collection; varieties such as Texas Red, Pecos, Sumbar and SAL.
Presenter: George Cates of Native American Seed
Program: 2 P.M.
"Creating Diverse, Drought Tolerant Native Outdoor Living Spaces"
George Cates began interning for Native American Seed (NAS) in 2002 and was hired full time after graduating Austin College in 2006 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. For the past decade, he has participated in and led many NAS prairie restorations utilizing seeds harvested across the many ecoregions of Texas. George also manages NAS farming and seed production operations in Junction, TX. He has a remarkable capacity for looking at problems as “challenges” to be met, and the kind of willingness to learn that is a priceless asset. George has maintained his own yard as a model for vibrant and responsibly beautiful outdoor living spaces. Conserve water and cut maintenance by reducing the size of native lawn turf areas and planting no-mow prairie grasses and wildflower seed mixes. He loves to teach and share what he has learned through his experiences.
Native American Seed of Junction, Texas, is based at the center of nine eco-regions. The company’s mission is to help people restore the earth by offering a wide diversity of 100% locally adapted native species. Practical solutions for eco-logical land management and responsible beauty are goals that we can all achieve by working together using the best management practices available.