The vision of the King Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel (chapter 4:10-12):
"There before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed."
There is today no one giant tree that will feed and shelter all the earth. But tree by tree, yard by yard, home by home, school by school, congregation by congregation, park by park, neighborhood by neighborhood we can create a Great Orchard, a network of trees and companion plants that can help heal our physical and emotional scars, feed us with luscious, local, healthy food, and create gathering places of peace and belonging.
That is the vision of the BOP.
The BOP was founded on the belief that urban fruit trees and food forests must become an essential part of 21st century urban design. These trees – both individually and in clusters - significantly contribute to environmental, social and personal health. More than just charming, decorative or marginal components of the urban landscape, we believed that fruit and nut trees and food forests can become integral and essential parts of urban food systems.
Now, a new study published by the International Union of Forest Research Organization (IUFRO) confirms this. Entitled Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition, the study indicates “there is considerable evidence that suggests that forests and tree-based systems can play an important role in complementing agricultural production in providing better and more nutritionally- balanced diets … greater control over food consumption choices, particularly during lean seasons and periods of vulnerability (especially for marginalised groups); and deliver a broad set of ecosystem services which enhance and support crop production.”
This is invaluable because “Despite impressive productivity increases, there is growing evidence that conventional agricultural strategies fall short of eliminating global hunger, result in unbalanced diets that lack nutritional diversity, enhance exposure of the most vulnerable groups to volatile food prices, and fail to recognise the long-term ecological consequences of intensified agricultural systems.”
Tree-based systems of food production, including urban orchards and food forests that offer ready access, personal agency, economy possibilities and a degree of food sovereignty, can – and this study is arguing must - become an essential component of our global food system. The BOP is working hard to make that happen here in Baltimore.
Lyneham, Australia is the latest city seeking to bolster its food security, strengthen its social capital and improve its ecosystem through food forests!
Hurray for them!
The more we create an expectation that local food should be part of both city-scapes and city-services, the faster systems will be put in place to design, manage and distribute the goods of these urban oases!
Jane Goodall, the woman known for her pioneering work with chimpanzees, also has been enchanted by the world of plants since she was a child.
In this book, part autobiography - part adventure and exploration, Goodall speaks of her love of, search for and appreciation of the plants that she has encountered in her long and well-travelled life.
A pleasant read, there is one line in there that grabbed me more than all the others:
Why is it, she ponders while recalling this wisdom from an anonymous someone, "... that if a work of Man is destroyed it is called vandalism, but if a work of nature, of God, is destroyed it is so often called progress."
All life leaves traces. All life traffics in the use and consumption of nature. So it is not the fact that humans use, mine, consume and transform nature that is the object of this critique. It is the abusive or wanton or excessive or irresponsible or greedy use of nature that turns it into destruction.
The BOP uses nature; creates orchards and food forests and edible ecosystems where nature would not have created it.
But given that we live in a world radically and wholly transformed by humanity, it is our responsibility to partner with nature in ways that nature might not have done herself, but in ways that - ideally - enrich her and heal her from our past degradations so she can enrich and heal all of creation.
Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard, presented at the monthly webinar of the Community Orchard Network.
Check out the podcast here.
And send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to join the group and get information about future webinars.
Next one: Tuesday, May 26 1 pm EDT
Presenter: Eric Toensmeier on food forests. Check out his book Paradise Lot
Here is a lovely sentiment I happened to bump into (randomness, serendipity or just rubbing two things together can sometimes be our most creative tools)
"When I grow the tree from seed or from cutting, when I nurse the tree from a sapling, when I eat of its fruit and sleep in its shade, when I watch it grow year by year, then I discover that a spirit inhabits the dance of its branches."
By Jeremy Luke Hill. You can find his blog and the source of this quote here.
Imagine a city full of such trees, neighborhoods alive with such spirits, and people filled with such vision.
Though Wendell Berry is not without his detractors (who among us isn't?), he often speaks fundamental truths in such clear, compelling ways that they merit sharing.
In his latest book, Our Only World, Berry says two things that underpin the work of the BOP:
1) People and land flourish in each other's presence. We know that people often are harmed when dislocated and alienated from the land they love; but even more, as Berry (and the Bible!) remind us, the land suffers when it is alienated from those who love it.
2) "...how likely impossible it is to know authentically or well what one does not love, and how certainly impossible it is to love what one does not know."
The BOP believes in these two teachings. Our work both enables and relies upon knowing and loving the earth where we live, right in our own neighborhoods, our schools, our congregations, our backyards.
We are about so much more than putting trees in the ground. We work to inspire intimacy between people and land, which we hope then becomes knowledge, love and deep care and caring so that both people and land may thrive.
The Baltimore Orchard Project is proud to be one of the founders of the growing community-of-practice called "Community Orchard Network." We are an informal, on-line network of groups and individuals engaged in or exploring community/urban orchards. The Alliance for Community Trees has graciously taken responsibility for organizing and administering the group and our monthly webinars. You too can join the network by writing to them at email@example.com.
And you can also access our third webinar on urban foraging with Dr. Marla Emery, and one of our Stories from the Field with Rose Smiechowski of Hidden Harvest Pittsburgh here.
The temperature hit the high 60s yesterday - awakening the peepers and starting the summer chorus. It seemed a bit late this year. Usually one lone precocious peeper starts piping up mid-March, days before the others, hoping to wow and woo the females (if any have awakened yet from their winter slumber) and get a leg up on his competitors. This year, no doubt due to the cold, they all seemed to emerge at once, last night! Strong chirps filled the air.
And if the peepers are here, spring planting cannot be far behind. So get out your shovels, turn the compost one more time, and prepare for the vernal explosion of life.
As Maurice Sendak might say: Let the Wild Rumpus begin!
(If you live in the city you may qualify for a free fruit tree for planting this spring. For more information, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The orchard movement continues: