North Star Orchard: On Farming and Food

  (Cochranville, Pennsylvania)
Unique and heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables
[ Member listing ]

Morning at the Market

The West Chester Growers' Market: We were one of the founding members of this market (the first such producer-only market in SE PA!!) in 1995.

You always remember your first!


 
 

Instant

It seems like just about everything nowadays is tending towards instant.Instant

Online, of course:
-Connect to the internet, in an instant
-Order a book for your Kindle, in an instant
-Download a song (or a whole album) to your iPod, in an instant

But even in real life:
-Drive-through Starbucks; get your coffee, in an instant
-Order a refill for your prescription at the pharmacy, in an instant
-Know where you’re driving to via your GPS system, in an instant

In this day of ‘instant’, it’s nice to be aware of and appreciate things which do not take an instant:
-A long walk on the beach just prior to sunset
-The growth of your child from babe to functioning adult
-Following the cycles of the farm, from planting, to care, to harvest

I was startled one day in late winter when I received a phone call for someone looking for instant. In this case, an instant orchard. What they were looking for were adult Asian pear trees to put on their property. Not just one or two to fill a spot or two in their landscaping, as I was originally thinking, but an orchard’s worth.

The usual cycle of an orchard starts with ordering trees from a nursery. It can take anywhere from one to three years to receive the trees, depending on the nursery’s supply, how rare the variety is, etc. The trees arrive generally looking like long sticks with a few stringy roots attached. Planting, training, and waiting follows, followed by more training and waiting. And more training and waiting. Finally, several years down the road, you are (hopefully) rewarded with a fine crop of fruit to eat, share, and/or sell. Along the way, you, as an orchardist, make mistakes, learn more about how to be a better orchardist, and attempt to fix mistakes you previously made. In the end, if you haven’t made too many mistakes, the trees have grown tall and strong and pay you back in many ways for all earlier troubles.

This sounds oddly similar to parenting, actually, although we don’t get to (usually) pick out the specific variety of baby we want to raise.

So, these folks who want an instant orchard…well, it just makes me kind of cringe. First off, pulling a fully-grown tree from the ground and transplanting it elsewhere is a very delicate (and expensive) operation. The tree will be in shock. It may not survive the process, much less grow and be healthily productive. I suppose if you have enough money to throw at the project, chances of success would be better, but no matter what, it would still be hard on the tree.

And what of the heart of the orchardist? Carefully selecting and nurturing plus years of care and mistakes are all part of what makes a fulfilled orchardist. We feel great pride when our ‘children’ grow and become the best that they can be.

But an ‘instant’ orchardist? I can imagine that the only pride to be had is in the ability to stroke one’s ego. “Look, I spent $X and have an instant orchard”. Indeed; one that has been shocked through transition and struggles to survive with a caregiver who perhaps hasn’t even read a “Dummies Guide to Orcharding”. The heart and soul just wouldn’t be there, much less the knowledge how to help those struggling trees reach their full potential.

Instant is great for lattes, MP3s, and streaming videos, but for growing children, be they human or tree, I’ll take the long road any day.

 
 
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