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|Preserving the Perennial Heritage of the Sierra|
|Written by Amigo Cantisano|
A very significant portion of my life has been devoted to research and action related to the life and projects of Felix Gillet (pictured left). Gillet was the pioneering nurseryman in California, opening his nursery in Nevada City in 1871, and importing and breeding most of the plants that became the foundation of California's and the Pacific Northwest's perennial agriculture. I have worked as a part-time volunteer on this project for 40 years, finding and identifying hundreds of plants from his introductions, researching his life and published works, propagating and preserving some of these grandparent trees and vines, and promoting his place in California's history.
Just one segment of his important work was wine grapes. Gillet introduced hundreds of grape varieties. A few that are still in California wine production include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Marsanne, Rousanne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Vert, Alicante Bouchet, Gamay, Petite Verdot, Malbec and dozens more. One of his catalogs had 241 varieties of grapes!
This breadth of detail and importance is evident in more than 15 other important West Coast crops introduced first by Gillet: Cherries, Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Filberts, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Strawberries, Raspberries, Apples, Table and Raisin Grapes, Figs, Nectarines, Apricots, Peaches and more. Felix also published numerous articles that taught the foundation principles for the growing, propagation and pest management for many of these crops.
Now it is time to move the Felix Gillet project into high gear. I and 6 other plant enthusiast friends have formed a 501(c)3 non profit organization, The Felix Gillet Institute, to further the development of many aspects of this important work. You can find bits and pieces about Felix by doing a Google search but, unfortunately, no one has done the thorough research that is necessary to document his most important work. That's where we come in.We want to get all this information into the public domain via the Internet. There are literally hundreds of documents that need to digitized and catalogued. A website needs to be developed and maintained. Our nursery project needs to become a full-fledged production nursery, so that all of these heritage plants are maintained for this and future generations. And there are numerous other projects that need to be accomplished: education for children and adults, historic recognition for his nursery and many of these plants that are threatened by development and neglect, recipe development from these heirloom varieties, identification of the natural resistance to insects and disease that these drought tolerant hundred plus year old plants exhibit, incorporating these traits into modern varieties to increase natural resistance to pests, disease and weather, and a bunch more.
We have done much with volunteer work and no money. But now we need support to move this most important project into full running mode. Can you provide seed money to help me get the FGI into full working mode? All of your support will be well spent, specifically on the project. We have no paid staff; 100 percent of your money will go to the activities described. Our nonprofit status provides you with a tax deduction for your donation. Our goal is to raise $25,000 so that we can immediately start on the document collection and digitizing, and develop the website. We have commitments for 30 percent of our goal at this point. Your contribution of $1,000, or more, would be greatly appreciated, however any amount will be put to work on this project.
Felix Gillet Institute