|Francis Peabody Sharp saving apple seeds, Woodstock N.B. 1901|
Growing apples was a life-long passion for Francis Peabody Sharp (1823-1903) the N.B. orchardist who pioneered cross-pollination and grafting techniques. From the 1840s when he began experimenting with scions from the U.K. and Maine, Sharp's personal mission was to prove that apples could be successfully cultivated in the cold heart of New Brunswick, in a province where the idea of planting apples had previously been dismissed as a fruitless pursuit. By 1890, the vast orchards he established were exporting 18,000 barrels of apples to the U.S.annually, and selling another 7000 locally. The F.P. Sharp Orchards and Nursery had developed into a booming business, the largest fruit-growing company in Canada.
In 1882 two of Sharp's colleagues - Charles Gibbs and Joseph Lancaster Budd - professors in the specialized study of pomology took a trip to Russia to research and collect specimens of hardy apple varieties. Sharp was invited to go along, all expenses paid by the U.S. government, but did not join the expedition. He received 50 samples of the 350 varieties brought back from their travels and developed thousands of new apple varieties: New Brunswick, Crimson Beauty, Peabody Greening, Munro Sweet, Woodstock Bloom.
The apple empire fostered by Sharp fell apart after 1890 as bad fortune and poor financial management destroyed the business. The introduction of McKinley's tariff on goods entering the U.S. made the cost of exporting Canadian apples prohibitive. A devastating fire destroyed the Sharp farmhouse and orchard in 1892 and in the same year his son Franklin, the man who had been groomed to take over the business, died of consumption.
Despite those trials and tribulations, in 1901, at age 78, Sharp was still saving apple seeds.
"My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough,
But I am done with apple-picking now."
from "After Apple-Picking" by Robert Frost