Preserving the Historic Badger Apple Trees
While there remains almost nothing of the 80 farmsteads that dotted the Sauk Prairie on the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant, there were a few survivors… apple trees! Yes, some of the apple trees planted by farmers in their yards prior to World War II survive to this day, representing for some families the last tangible vestige of their family history on the land. Curt Meine of the Alliance initiated a project several years ago–the Badger Apple Corps— to document, map and preserve the historic apple trees of Badger.
The Apple Corps project has taken on a new dimension this year. In late March, 26 volunteers came together to graft twigs of a select number of Badger apple trees onto fresh apple rootstock. They were trained and guided by a national expert on apple varieties and propagation–Dan Bussey from Seed Savers Exchange in Dekorah, Iowa. Almost 200 grafts were completed. Then, on May 30th, a dozen volunteers convened at a site on Dairy Forage Research Center land inside the fence at Badger to plant those young grafted trees into a special apple nursery.
The volunteers, again led by Dan Bussey, planted a total of 108 trees that included grafted scion wood from 26 different source trees found on land owned by Ho-Chunk Nation, Dairy Forage Research Center and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The 26 source trees altogether represent 14 of the 1942 Badger farmsteads.
We were especially pleased and honored to have among our volunteers Dennis and Jay Kindschi. Dennis is the grandson, and Jay the great-grandson, of Lillian and Roy Kindschi, whose farm was among those taken in 1942 to build the Badger Plant. As fate would have it, that farmstead is in fact the one on which the nursery is located! We invited Dennis and Jay to symbolically plant the first two trees on behalf of the many families that once had farms on the Badger lands.
Our goal with the apple project is to preserve the historic Badger apples by propagating trees, first in a nursery setting. The new trees will eventually by transplanted into a memorial orchard that will honor the farm families that lost their land when the Badger Plant was constructed. The trees will ultimately represent the apples found on as many of the historic farmsteads as we can locate.