By David Fried
Travelling around the east coast I notice that a lot of people live in apartment buildings. This conserves more open land, but I wonder if that open land can be farmed and if the people in the tall buildings still have a connection to it?
Those of us with even a small bit of land have a way to dip in to the soft earth and help things grow up from it. Today, I was speaking with a man who has an eight-foot-by-eight-foot backyard in Brooklyn who was excited when I told him that, if it received sunlight, he could grow some blueberry bushes or a pear tree there.
Squirrels, skunks and sparrows make it in small city spaces and so can plants. I have read that a fruit tree somehow distills the water rising in its sap to form its fruit, so even fruit grown along highways or inner cities is purified by the inner workings of a tree.
It is pretty standard for a home to be sold with a birch tree and a spruce tree and a few azalea bushes in front, and that is it. What if most homes came with a few plum trees or a tasty crabapple tree and a raised bed for a vegetable or herb garden? Is there a better way to increase the love of children growing up for the earth and the land around them than by letting them plant and harvest and taste and feel it?
We had two crabapple trees in my backyard growing up, and my dad would prune them, and from them, my mom baked fragrant apple pies .My mom had garden gloves with peas and carrots printed on them, and she grew these vegetables along the fence. One day, my brothers and I looked out our kitchen window while eating our breakfast and saw our neighbor’s pet monkey up in these apple trees -you never know how exciting life can be when you live with fruit trees!
I was introduced as a “farmer in Vermont” at a gathering in New York City earlier this week. Many young people, students at New York University, gathered around me saying, “We want to be organic farmers. How do we do it?” I felt like a celebrity!
We who grow fruits and nuts and vegetables have a great legacy which we need to pass on to younger people. There is nothing as optimistic as planting a fruit or nut tree or a berry patch and a garden. It means we plan to be around to harvest from it, and it means we believe the world will still exist! It also gives us a chance to do something with our hands, with no phone in one of them. We get to whisper to the earth, and we get to hear the earth whisper back — in flowers!
Remember what Joni Mitchell sang to us as the 60s were going out? “And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” See you there soon.
David Fried is the grower/writer at Elmore Roots Fruit Tree and Berry Nursery in northern Vermont.