New fruit orchard planned at historic farm

By 
Pete Stidman
Apr. 19, 2009

After years of resting on their laurels, or more particularly—maintaining the raspberry bushes, cherry trees and grape vines that they planted in nooks and crannies all over the city prior to 2000—Earthworks Boston is again in the business of planting brand new orchards, including at least one in Dorchester.

Dorchester’s new fruit farm will be in the most obvious of sites for the historically inclined, the Dorchester Historical Society’s Clapp Family Farm. In his later years, William Clapp, who owned one of the houses on the farm, was a devoted horticulturist, trying all manor of hybridization in his orchards along the Boston Road, now Boston Street.

“We’d like to stick with the kinds the Clapp’s grew if we can,” said Ann Schmalz of the Society, also a devoted naturalist. “We really want to capitalize on the agricultural history of the property.”

Without a doubt the Clapp’s favorite, a cross between a Flemish beauty and a Bartlett that still grown all over the world today, will be a dominant tree on the property. Three of four trees planted by the society recently are already of that variety. But a number of lesser-known varieties developed by Clapp are also hoped for, such as the Mt. Vernon, harvest and Dorset pears.

“We’re trying to work with antique varieties as much as possible,” said Benjamin Crouch, Earthworks’ urban forestry program director.

With funding from the Harold Whitworth Charitable Trust and other sources, Earthworks and the society are also considering currants, blueberries and gooseberries, as well as a fruiting hedge out front and a display of farming tools and implements—possibly in a refurbished barn, if they can raise the funds to fix it up.

“We’d like to really emphasize that history of the property,” said Schmalz. “Dorchester as a whole was a really important agricultural area.”

The last time Earthworks—which also trains youth in nutrition, ecology and orchard and garden maintenance— planted new trees was in 2002, when they planted another historic orchard at Edward Everett Square’s Blake House. The organization has planted 51 sites in since it was founded in 1989, 41 of which are still around today. Over a dozen are in Dorchester, and one large planting is at the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan.

Aside from their youth crew, which is hired through the Boston Youth Fund each summer, Earthworks relies on volunteer labor.

“We’ll definitely be hoping people in the community might like to help us from time to time. We’re looking for community input and involvement, school children too,” said Schmalz.

Earthworks is at 442-1059 and Dorchester Historical Society can be reached at 265-7802.