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"What does a fruit tree mean to you?" by Beth Weick, as published in North country News, August 2010

This afternoon sweat had my shirt sticking uncomfortably to my back, dirt staining my legs as I shook it free from the roots of weeds. Myself and a visiting resident from Mexico were working closely in our upper pasture, pulling sorrel, quack grass, and clover from amongst a row of collards, kale, and kohlrabi. We were exchanging perspectives and experiences on food, farming, and class inequality…naturally. She mentioned some time spent amongst a community with a great diversity of fruit trees, yet they subsisted on beans and tortillas. Only the children, she said, bothered to climb the trees to nab some fruit. No one else bothered, they didn't think it worthwhile to eat and were no longer accustomed to picking their own food.

From there, she went on to describe food conglomerates, and their total control. There were no possibilities aside from international corporations – and they dominated throughout the country. If you want milk, there's only one option; if you want water, there's only one option. Water is un-potable from the sink, wells are no good; you have to buy it, and "local" water is a rare commodity.

People have no control, she emphasized, but also no information. They don't know, don't understand what is happening.

But here, here in America, here in New Hampshire, here in the Northcountry, we do have information and so we can understand that our local food economy is under assault. For the moment, we do have water that is still potable. We do have choices in the milk we drink, or the meat we cook. We have apple trees that we can relish. We mustn't take these options for granted.

Originally, this piece was about our weekly harvests here at D Acres. No English major, I purported to create some idyllic scenes involving dew, morning sun, and lush gardens. I maintain that such an image is, nonetheless, fairly close to accurate, and that the variety of produce we reap is a beauty not to be overlooked. We still trot out with our wooden baskets under our arms; we still celebrate a plentiful harvest. From purple string beans, to pink chard; from the deep green of zucchini to the passionate red of jalenpeños; from the crispness of apples to the run-down-your-chin juiciness of plums, harvest days are a sensory treat.

I'll still mention our Harvest & Preservation workshop, to be held here at D Acres 10am-12noon on Saturday, August 28…

…but this is urgent, folks! We must once again make these skills mundane, common. It is not enough to think that canning applesauce, or pickling garlic scapes, or making raspberry preserves is hip, or quaint, idyllically domestic, or bucolically self-sufficient.

This is about preserving not just our food. Within our relationship to our food, is housed our relationship to local flavor and local culture. Our ability to eat within our region is synonymous with a robust local economy, and a vibrant community. Knowing where, when, and how your food is grown and arrives on your plate is part and parcel of knowing your neighbors. There is no time to wait.

Not to mention that if you wait too long, raspberry season will have passed by, and the apples will rot. And they're just too good to pass up.

Beth Weick works at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the workshops & events at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org or contacting the farm at info@dacres.org.

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