HomeAmazingTom Brown: The Apple Hunter Rescuing Over 1,200 Lost Varieties
Tom Brown: The Apple Hunter Rescuing Over 1,200 Lost Varieties
The story of Tom Brown, the retired engineer who became an ‘apple hunter’, rescuing over 1,000 ‘lost’ varieties in the last 25 years. The retired chemical engineer (employed by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company) began his quest to find and preserve lost apple varieties more than 25 years ago. He was born in a rural area of North Carolina.
He retired from his job in the early 1990s. Tom owns an apple orchard called “Heritage Apples” in Clemmons, North Carolina. So far, he has discovered more than 1,200 rare varieties of apples. He has at least 600 heritage apples on display, and he has been fighting to ensure that the heirloom apples of Appalachia in the Eastern United States do not become extinct. Tom Brown first encountered heritage apples in 1998 at a farmer’s market stand run by Maurice Marshall, who discussed rediscovering lost apple varieties that had exited commercial production, which piqued Brown’s interest.
He is popularly known as the Apple Hunter. Tom Brown grows around 60 varieties of apples each year on his farm and sells around 1000 trees. To encourage more preservation, Tom Brown offers discounts on the purchase of rarer heritage varieties. In most cases, searching for lost types entails contacting individuals in rural Appalachia who may know where to find apple trees and discovering defunct orchards, some of which may have been reincorporated into woodlands.
Trees from Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and a few other places have found their forever homes in his orchard. Brown’s first rediscovered apple was a cultivar known as “Yellow Potts.” Tom Brown also exhibits rare apple varieties at Appalachian events in the farmer’s markets each year, where he obtains information from attendees about sites for him to research.