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How Do You Like Them Apples?

BAINBRIDGE'S FRUIT FARMERS // By Isabelle Haines

Bainbridge Island Fruit Club Red Apple
Photos by Darren Murphy

Picture an apple. The shine of its skin, the star of seeds at its center. Statistically speaking, if each of those seeds were planted, they would most likely grow into completely different varieties of apple trees—different from the parent fruit and different from one another. Because most apple varieties are not self-pollinating, they are fertilized by a different variety, which leads to immense variation from seed to seed. For Darren Murphy, the co-founder and president of the Bainbridge Island Fruit Club, this is what makes growing fruit so appealing.

Murphy’s love of gardening began in childhood, and he’s been perfecting horticultural techniques like grafting for many years. For his first-ever graft, Murphy spliced some gnarled pear and apple cuttings onto a tree in his backyard. The cuttings took and a passion was born.

“The ability to create your own tree is so cool and exciting that it’s kind of addictive,” Murphy said. That fascination is the seed from which the Bainbridge Island Fruit Club grew. It is the ninth and newest chapter of the Western Cascade Fruit Society, a nonprofit that connects orchardists and gardeners across eight counties. For over a decade, Murphy attended the Peninsula Fruit Club meetings before co-founding the Bainbridge branch in 2014.

“I was one of the few people from Bainbridge that would regularly go to the Bremerton meetings,” Murphy said. “I just felt that there was enough of us here that would want to do something on Bainbridge.”

The BIFC typically meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Grange Hall. During each meeting, a guest lecturer will speak on a given topic—anything from beekeeping to cider-making—after which members can discuss the successes and failures in their own gardens. No fruit growing experience is necessary to join—the club welcomes fruit virtuosos and beginners alike. In fact, current vice president Ben Upsall initially joined when, upon moving to the island and purchasing a home, he suddenly had a sprawling garden and a stand of fruit trees to take care of.

“We were very fortunate to have found the fruit club, and that’s where I’ve basically gone from absolute novice to one step above absolute novice,” Upsall joked.

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