Holistic Orchard Apprenticeship Instructors


Mike Biltonen

Mike has spent nearly 40 years in agriculture – working mostly with orchards, vineyards, and specialty veg and fruit crops. He specializes in all aspects of sustainable orchard production of apples, pears, and stone fruit. An early passion for sustainable agriculture evolved into a profound dedication to the principles and practices of ecologically-focused, biodynamically-driven farming. The last fifteen years Mike has worked as a consultant to novice and seasoned farmers and orchardists alike on all aspects of establishing and managing regenerative and integrated farmscapes. Mike also conducts workshops, seminars, webinars, and has a free newsletter for the truly dedicated. He co-owns Know Your Roots, a novel and innovative family-owned company, with his wife Debbie where they are synchronously using farming and herbalism practices to heal the Earth. https://knowyouroots.com/index.html

John Bunker

The Sherlock Holme of the apple world, John Bunker, is considered one of Maine’s most knowledgeable pomologists. He is a farmer, author, artist, historian, educator, and mentor to many aspiring and established apple growers, and both home and professional cider makers. In 1984 he started the cooperative mail-order nursery Fedco Trees. In 2012 he founded the Maine Heritage Orchard in Unity Maine. His recent book, “Apples and the Art of Detection” recounts his 40 years of tracking down, identifying and preserving rare apples. He lives with Cammy Watts on Superchilly Farm in Palermo Maine. outonalimbapples.com.

Matt Kaminsky

Matt Kaminsky, also eponymously known as Gnarly Pippins, is an orchardist and silvopasture farmer from Sunderland, MA. He has written books on wild and seedling apples, and created the Annual Wild and Seedling Pomological Exhibition. In addition to promoting novel selections of wild and seedling apples through a nursery and scionwood program, he’s also involved with the Preservation Orchard farming cooperative, where he and his partner focus on developing silvopasture systems for growing great quality tree crops with the grazing power of sheep and chickens via Meadowfed Lamb.

Laura Sieger

Laura is an orchardist living in mid-coast Maine. They have been involved with the Maine Heritage Orchard since its establishment in 2014, caring for the young standard trees in Unity, teaching workshops, hosting events, tracking down old apple and pear trees, and identifying historic apples. Laura has also worked for Fedco Trees collecting and distributing scionwood since 2016. They prune fruit trees for hire in the winter and are an itinerant grafter in the spring. They are a part of the Historic Fruit Tree Working Group and are currently working to establish a cultivar database to be used for apple identification nationally.

Ben Applegate

Ben Applegate is the orchard manager for Eden Ciders in northeastern VT, where he stewards a 3 acre orchard of apples. He has been fascinated by trees ever since he could climb them as a child. Ben was a forester and arborist before entering the orcharding world and brings a forest ecology lens to growing fruit trees. He periodically leads workshops on pruning and does orchard care consulting in his local region. Ben and Josh will guide us in a pruning session in March. Ben will also teach class in April.

Josh Karp of Cate Hill Orchard and Sheep Dairy in Greensboro, VT

Josh and his family live in the beautiful and remote Northeast Kingdom, on a small, diverse permaculture/organic family farm, with a 5 acre standard-tree apple orchard, diverse small fruit and berry plantings, and about 45 sheep. Along with certified organic apples, the farm direct-sells a variety of small fruit and value-added apple products including raw apple cider, apple/berry juices and apple cider vinegar, along with grass fed lamb, wool products, and homemade salves.

To Josh’s family, a permaculture approach to things means, as Michael Phillips was fond of saying, outrageous diversity within our plantings whenever possible. While our orchard is ‘managed’ for commercial production, we model our always-evolving approach on nature’s complexity. Unmown, wild places abound, and interspersed amongst the fruit trees are plantings of herbs and flowers, which act as living mulches, pest confusers and homes for wild pollinators and other beneficial insects. The sheep graze in the orchard a few times each year, providing fertility and cleaning up any drops we missed after harvest.

While picking delicious, ripe fruit is certainly a sweet reward after carefully tending the plantings all season, Josh’s favorite task in the orchard is pruning. He is excited to share what he’s learned over 25 years of pruning apple trees both in his orchard, and for neighbors with small plantings.

Photo of Hugh WIlliams

Hugh Williams

Hugh was born in Australia in 1946; his work in commercial apple growing dates from 1961 on his family’s orchard in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. After university and bumming around the world he was ‘called’ specifically to biodynamic farming in 1972. This has been his lifelong passion for the past 50+ years. He and his wife Hanna run ‘Threshold Farm’ in New York’s Hudson Valley with a herd of cows and other livestock in addition to a vegetable operation; the principle enterprise is 10 acres of orchards, mainly of apples with peach, pear and plum blocks also grown. Practices are strictly biodynamic, with all compost developed on the farm.