Putting Up Fruit Trees Promises Peach Cobbler and More

Putting Up Fruit Trees Promises Peach Cobbler and More
March 14, 2013, Aaron Kingsley

(An apple tree at Middlebury Street and N. 6th Street.)

... At that point in the conversation he made a very interesting – and I think telling – leap. “I remember when people used to have apple trees, or pear trees, fruit trees in their yards,” he said. “Maybe just one or two. But they would have them. They’d prune them up, and take care of them. Then they’d have some fruit sometimes. And even if they didn’t want it, maybe someone from next door, or down the street would come for it. Or take it down to the church. Seemed like most everyone had some kind of fruit tree, and now nobody does. Nobody knows how, and nobody thinks there’s a reason for it.”

I pushed him on this a bit. And he said that lots of people had fruit trees because that’s the way they had grown up themselves, whether on the farm or in town. Everybody had fruit trees, and you would just share the fruit if it was more than you wanted. It never got wasted. He worked briefly at Kercher’s Orchard, and learned how to prune. He pruned trees throughout his neighborhood. But all those trees are gone now.

I asked him why he supposed this was. He wasn’t sure. He thought it might have to do with watching TV and playing video games. He told me about someone from Chicago who saw him plant some onions in his garden one spring. “What are you doing that for?” the man asked Ray, “They’ll just rot if you put them in the ground.”

This man thought food came out of the store, so Ray made sure that he came back every week to see how the onions grew.  And now this fellow is quite a gardener himself.

Ray thought it was something similar with fruit.

But there was something more underneath what Ray was telling me. It wasn’t only the notion that some people might not have a healthy understanding of where food comes from. (Or other things for that matter – my son recently made a comment abut pajamas coming from the factory, which is probably truer than I know on the one hand, yet far from the full truth on the other.) He was aiming at a deeper sense of the way that people live and work and play together.

I’m pretty sure of this, because his next comments were like this: “I said to my wife the other day that the city has a lot of empty land, like down there where they tore down Western Rubber, and they could put a lot of fruit trees in there. People could help each other take care of the trees, learn how to prune them up. Then they could have the fruit. And if they didn’t want it they could take it down to the Window. All those guys sitting over at Work Release could come and help out, learn something, and feel good about themselves.”

And then he went on to reminisce about the old County Home, near Ox Bow Park, where the folks ran their own farm, raised some of their own food and animals to help offset their upkeep. He remembered a county prison in Tennessee from his childhood where the inmates paid off some of their debt by working on a county farm.

“There’s a lot of land in the city,” he said again. “It’d be a way for people to know each other.”

This is an idea that keeps bubbling up in Goshen, from different sources. I told Ray as much. Several times a year someone will say something to me like, “What would it take to build a community orchard?”; or “Do you ever plant fruit trees along the streets?”; or, “If I was to plant some paw paws in such and such a woods, would I get in trouble?”

I wonder what would happen if this bubbling turned to a boil.

I’d like to see it.

In fact, I take Ray’s comments as a serious challenge. Not that a former industrial site is the place for fruit trees, necessarily. But there are other places that are certainly suitable. And as Ray was intuiting, there are some deeply compelling reasons for seriously exploring this. So, with his prodding, I would like to ask, what are the good ideas in Goshen for filling our city with fruit?

Put another way, who’s up for homegrown peach cobbler?

(click here to read the rest of this article by Aaron Kingsley at Goshen Commons)