Sowing seeds of faith: Piedmont woman is modern-day Johnny Appleseed

Sharon Allen, of Piedmont, founded Apples for Africa to help widows, orphans and other impoverished Africans.
by Carla Hinton Modified: November 19, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: November 18, 2013

After much digging, she found the name of an orchard grower in California who had written a book about planting apples in warm and tropical settings. She said she sent emails to him and phoned him for six months before she was able to get into one of his “Apple University” courses.

“I love a good challenge. I think that's how God made me,” Allen said. “If I hear ‘can't,' it just makes me more determined.”

“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Kevin Hauser, founder of Kuffel Creek Apple Nursery in Riverside, Calif., said he remembers receiving those initial emails from Allen. He said he knew she was serious when she contacted him to tell him she had obtained the proper import permits to send apple trees to Rwanda.

“If that wasn't enough, she made a special trip to southern California in January 2009 for a crash course in apple culture before heading out to Rwanda to receive the trees we'd be shipping,” Hauser said. He said Allen is the reason he now has a Kuffel Creek Apple Nursery in Kampala, Uganda.

“She loves to visit the orphanages and widow's group homes and has a real heart for Africa, and God has used her to minister to many people,” Hauser said.

Allen learned that apple trees would grow in warm, tropical settings if they were “tricked” into thinking they had gone through a dormant season. She said Africa has two seasons — wet and dry — so she and the Africans pull the leaves off the trees to mimic what occurs during a typical winter or dormant season. Most of the orchards she has planted have had two harvest seasons a year because of this method.

Allen said she and her daughters, Marlee, 18 and Erin, 20, and family friends raised money to buy the first 100 apple trees by holding garage sales and other fundraisers. Hauser was so impressed that he sent her an additional 100 trees.

The first orchard started with those 200 trees. Allen said the first apples produced by the first Rwandan orchard were relatively small, but subsequent harvests have yielded larger apples and more of them.

These days, Apples for Africa has a waiting list for apple trees. Allen said she's working on a request for apple trees for Haiti and another query for trees to be planted in Honduras, to help raise money for a home for girls rescued from sex-trafficking.

Allen, who is now married to husband, Charles, said some people have asked her how she pursued what proved to be a difficult task.

“I'm going to where God wants me to go, and I'd rather be where God wants me to be than outside of His will.”

She said people who are inspired by Apples for Africa can donate to the organization or find their own way to help others. And she said she could use more prayers as her nonprofit expands into other areas.

“That's kind of how this whole thing got started,” Allen said. “Prayer works.”

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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