Perhaps our orchard group tapped into the universal mind as it appears we are part of a world wide movement to bring back lost orchards and create new ones. In 1992 a group in England called Common Ground formed a group that has a mission of linking nature with culture. One of their programs is Community Orchards which offers a way of saving vulnerable old orchards and creating opportunities to plant new ones. They argue that “Community Orchards should be open and accessible at all times. They may be owned or leased for or by the community (or held by agreement) by a community group, parish council, or by a local authority or voluntary body.
As well as enjoying the place, local people can share the harvest or profit from its sale, taking responsibility for any work in the orchard.” Common Ground suggests that, “The success of a Community Orchard lies in the strength of local commitment to it. Local people are the key to running it and deciding how it is used. These orchards do not have economic fruit production as their raison d’être, yet they might just pay for themselves, with income generated through the sale of fruit and other produce – everything from wild flower seeds to mistletoe.”
Common Ground has promoted Apple Day held in October each year and Apple Day events are held around the country to celebrate and demonstrate that variety and richness matter to a locality and that it is possible to affect change in your place.
They have published several books. The Common Grounds Book of Orchards “explores how orchards continue to shape local culture from custom to kitchen and urges us to value old orchards of tall trees for their delicate ecology and local distinctiveness.” The Apple Source Book described as a “Lovely treasury of all things appley.” You can read a sample chapter from the source book here.
I was interested in this description of a relatively new community orchard project which resembled our own effort at the Curry Preserve ”
“Fifty local people helped to plant 46 apple trees. Individual trees were protected with sturdy wooden cage type guards. The grassland beneath the trees is mown twice a year by the council. A 50-centimetre clearance is left around each tree when mowing. Local residents have carried out weeding and mulching within the area of the tree guards. A standpipe has enabled people to water the young trees if necessary. A management plan was completed with help from the London Ecology Unit. A longer-term plan for the orchard will be drawn up by the council and the Friends of Blondin Park. Ideas include fruit production, links with schools, training for new skills, grazing of the orchard by sheep, wild life observances and seating. The orchard may be expanded to take in many of the existing cherry trees within the nature area. Very few trees have been lost since planting. This is partly due to the orchard’s location off a main road behind overlooking houses, but also because people enjoy the orchard and see it working. Losses of any trees are replaced. The establishment of a Friends Group – 50 members at time of writing – has led to collaboration between local people and the council to improve the area. A management plan for the whole nature area, including the orchard, is being jointly prepared. Local people are using a public open space and beginning to work together and think creatively about new opportunities for its social use and its benefit to the local environment. Apple Day has been celebrated in the orchard since 1997.”
My own opinion is that we should continue to look for places on the island where we can plant community orchards. These could be trees planted on the perimeter of properties like the Grange or the Library or the Church. It would be exciting if the Grange, Library and Church got behind the idea of planting food trees on their property. After all, there is very little “public” property on the island.
Perhaps there is a way that conservation easements can be written to give access to orchards on private property. Perhaps there will be land that can be purchased by the community for use as orchard. It would seems that The Heritage Trust would be the logical vehicle for such an idea. It’s just a matter of expanding the definition of “preservation.” Hopefully, the progress at the Curry will inspire more people to be enthused about the community orchard concept and generate additional opportunities and even an annual celebration like Apple Day which has been suggested by commenters on this blog.