Orchard Name: Ross Orchards
Orchard Owners: John Ross President and Chief Operating Officer
Orhcard Category: Farmstead Heritage Orchard
Planting Date: 1951, 1980's:
Type of Cultivars: Approximately 2 or 3 transcendent crab; 6 or 7 Wealthy's; about 10 Macintosh, a transparent, a few plums and a pear tree I think remain.
History: The original planting was planted by John's father; John started his plantings in the 1980's. My family has been involved in the history of apples and fruit in the Clark's Fork Valley in Southcentral Montana, some of which is included in a book I recently authored about my Dad, Jack Ross. His Dad, my Grandfather, William Ernest Ross came to the Clark's Fork Valley in 1904 with the Chillicotte Family. While William E. Ross taught school and in 1907 was one of three persons admitted to practice law in Montana, he always had a keen interest in apples and promoted orchards in the Clark's Fork Valley. He planted orchard subdivisions near Fromberg. His business cards and legal stationery used a lithograph of a basket of apples, which proclaimed Fromberg a "The Fruit Basket of Montana". He helped his friends the Chilcottes establish a Nursery near Rockvale. At one time there were many Orchards in the Clark's Fork Valley, including "Preacher" Clarke's orchard East of Fromberg, a photo of which ins included in my book. My Dad grew up in Fromberg and picked and sold apples as a boy. An article from a 1975 newspaper describes his interest in apples and the orchard he planted in 1951, we now call the "OLD" Orchard. Dad planted about 50 trees in 1951, which included about 50 trees on seedling rootstock, which I think came from Stark Brothers nursery. The orchard included Macintosh, Wealthy's, Delicious, transparent, transcendent crabs as well as Italian Plums, pears and peaches. The "old" orchard was very productive in the 1960 and 1970s, but has not been properly pruned and cared for in recent years, but remnants of it remain. I would like to have it designated as a Heritage orchard and maybe try to graft some shoots from those trees. I have continued the Ross orchard tradition. Starting in 1982 I have planted about 250 trees mostly on M111 rootstock, which "new" orchard is located just north and west of my folk's place at 111 North Street and the Catholic Church in Fromberg. I have planted about 16 different varieties to extend the harvest from early August until late October, and to experiment with both old and new varieties, and to see what grows well in the Clark's Fork Valley. However I still concentrate on Macintosh, including 4 or 5 different "strains" of Macintosh. Last year we had a very good crop. I marketed apples through the Good Earth Market in Billings, Farmer's Markets a senior program through the Billings Food Bank, school and others. However many apples went unpicked and unsold. I am working with Red Lodge ale to make cider. I am interested in exploring the expansion of production and marketing of apples, and would like to know if MSU Extension Service might also be interested and be able to provide some assistance.