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10,000 Trees in Flight to North Korea

North Korea, March 13, 2000

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    "Ten thousand apple trees will be loaded onto an Evergreen International Airlines B747" bound for North Korea. Photo: Mercy Corps. Photo:

A consortium of Oregon-based businesses, nonprofit organizations and a public agency have joined together in "Operation Appleseed," a humanitarian mission to assist hunger-stricken North Korea.

Ten thousand apple trees will be loaded onto an Evergreen International Airlines B747 at the San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday. The plane will arrive in Pyongyang, North Korea on Thursday. A press conference will be held immediately prior to the plane’s departure.

Mercy Corps, a non-profit humanitarian relief and development organization, launched "Operation Appleseed" to establish a 10,000-apple tree orchard on a 480-acre farm in South Pyongan province. This project builds on Mercy Corps’ experience in supporting sustainable agricultural development in North Korea and worldwide. Mercy Corps’ Senior Vice President Ellsworth Culver has led the agency’s humanitarian efforts in North Korea since 1996.

In consultation with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and North Korean counterparts, Mercy Corps acquired five varieties of rootstock from Oregon-based Treco, Inc., the largest supplier of apple rootstock in the world. Mercy Corps will cooperate with North Korean farm managers and Department of Agriculture experts in the planting, cultivation and maintenance of the trees. The expected yield at first harvest is 40 lbs. of apples per tree for a total of 200 tons. At maturity, each tree is expected to yield approximately 220 lbs. for a total of 1,100 tons. This would have a US market value of $550,000.

Evergreen International Airlines of McMinnville, Oregon is donating the B747 freighter aircraft to transport the trees to North Korea. The trees will be shipped along with 500 pounds of grass seed donated by Oregon Seed Council and 10,000 pounds of potato flakes from Oregon Potato Commission. Oregon Potato Commission also donated trucking of the shipment to San Francisco.

Mr. Culver and other representatives of Mercy Corps and the Oregon Department of Agriculture will accompany the shipment to North Korea.