In the mid 1990’s, Mitch Lynd and Ed Fackler foresaw the current situation of cultivars developed elsewhere not being available to Midwestern growers. It was also noted that varieties developed elsewhere were unlikely to suit the climate and challenges faced by growers in the Midwest. They took the initiative, contacting people that might share their concern and the Midwest Apple Improvement Association was formed.
Presenting the organization at several Midwestern fruit grower’s meetings and through the fruit growing press, approximately 50 growers/breeders/enthusiasts answered the call to commit $100 per year for 15 years. In order to run the association on this shoestring, it was decided that seedlings would be grown and evaluated on member’s farms.
In the spring of 1997, participating growers made the first crosses, with the breeding parents chosen for their cropping reliability, disease resistance, and flavor/quality attributes. GoldRush, Sweet Sixteen, Scarlet O’Hara, Co-op 33 (Crimson Crisp), HoneyCrisp, Rome, Melrose, Fuji, and Golden Delicious in various combinations were represented in that first year’s parents. 5300 seedlings were grown from the first year’s breeding.
Breeding has continued each year since and well over 50,000 seedlings have been distributed to members to grow, fruit, and evaluate.
In 2007 seedlings began fruiting and the first selections were identified for propagation and further evaluation. Tastings are held at the membership’s annual winter meetings.
Advanced selections continue to be evaluated at various venues throughout the Midwest, and new crosses continue to be made. MAIA1 was the first released variety from the program, with other promising selections on the way.