There is a hidden wholeness to planting, and tending, and maintaining an orchard that is lost on other forms of agriculture, and is most certainly estranged from whatever it is that industrial farming thinks that it is doing. That is not to say that haskap, or any other orchard crop, cannot be conscripted into the mass-marketing schemes of governments, or corporations, or individuals. It can, it has been, and it will be. But there is something extracted from the plants’ very DNA by doing so, forcing it to become a socially genetically modified organism (SGMO).
But the elemental form of orchard work is in fact an enduring pattern – a repeatable observation coined by cultural anthropologists – that given similar geographical, economic, and social circumstances, communities maintain habits of life and mind over immense periods. Part of these patterns are learned of course, and passed on. But there is a part of these behaviours that are inherently embedded in human genotype and heritability.
Actual orchard husbandry, or any husbandry for that matter, is opaque, the opposite of mass marketing propaganda. Another anthropology term, thick description, refers to a dense accumulation of ordinary information about a culture, as opposed to abstract or theoretical analysis. It means observing the details of life until they begin to coagulate or cohere into an interpretation.
There is a certain sensuous pleasure that comes from the yearly work of actual husbandry in an orchard, which by definition develops over time and is best done through the reflective observation, and responses, and care of a community of plants that is carried out over a long period. Learning to read an orchard gives you the comforting feeling that you’re not altogether adrift in the world. It provides you with both an actual context to enter into as well as real things with which to grapple, both in terms of these living creatures, as well as in your own soul..
Success is a terrible, self-conscious word. When my husbandry finds symbiosis with the plants in my orchards it is always humbling, and very clearly the product of not consciously thinking too much about what I am doing. That is, there is a strong element of grace about it…a mutual self-revelation and benefitting.
I have gardened for over fifty years. I have never pressed it into the service of my ego. I am deeply suspicious of people who do.