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Obert Parsons
Boone County's Apple Expert

By Patricia Black Lafferty
Photographs by Michael Keller

Obert Parsons
Obert Parsons from Foster, Boone County, is a local expert on grafting, growing and processing apples. Here, he demonstrates the proper way to tape a slope graft during a recent grafting class at his farm.

It was a crisp day. The leaves had begun to display their fall brilliance, and the smell of apples was in the air. Obert Parsons, who is 70 years old, lives at Foster in Boone County. He was making homemade apple butter in his mom's old copper kettle from apples grown on his farm.

Before Obert's mom passed away at 96 years of age, she gave the copper kettle to Obert with the promise that he would never give it away, and that he must accompany the kettle if he ever loans it to someone. A welder made the stand that holds the copper kettle. The legs are made from car springs, and the circular frames that sit on the legs were made from safety rims off a truck.

Obert made the apple stirrer with his own hands. "You have to use yellow poplar or the apple butter will have a resin taste of wood," remarks Mr. Parsons. "Some people still insist on using pine, and their apple butter is no good."

He insists that his apple butter is the best in the county. After all, he has been practicing the technique since he was six years old. It is a tradition passed down through the Parsons family for generations. According to Obert, the secret to good apple butter is using quality apples. That is why Obert grafts his own trees to produce the finest apples.

Obert feels like grafting is a "dying art" because there are fewer people taking the time to learn the skill. In the spring of each year, Mr. Parsons holds a tree grafting class on his farm through the West Virginia University Agricultural Extension Service. His main purpose in holding these classes is to pass grafting on to the next generation and to keep something going that is part of his heritage.

You can read the rest of this article in the Fall 2001 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.