So, Uncle Vern, what are you guys doin’ down on the farm this time of year? That’s really the question that gets answered every week for about 500 of these notes over the Abundant Harvest years.
Right now, the guys are summer pruning but let me explain why before what. A typical peach or nectarine orchard, properly tended, on good ground with good water will last 20-25 years; apricots and plums 30-50 years. So, in a perfect world, a farmer would only plant a given field one or two times in his career.
You might have noticed the world generally is a bit short of perfection and the fruit world also fails that mark in many ways. Things that can shorten the life of a tree are: soil pathogens, poor light / canopy management, and under-performing varieties.
We’ll leave the other topics for other notes. Today, the summer pruning we’re doing falls under the heading of light / canopy management. The little illustration of orchard longevity was to show we’re not growing broccoli or bell peppers with a new plant each year. Yes—especially in an organic farming system—soil health literally builds on itself for annual or perennial crops, but for us perennial guys, the fruiting structure (tree) lasts a very long time, or not, depending on management.
And regardless the crop—or flock or herd—what a farmer is really doing on any given day is just managing conditions so his crop or critters do more of the good stuff they are trying to do anyway and less of the bad stuff. If you are a parent or teacher, you know exactly what I’m talking about…
So back in mid-July, the buds on our trees were deciding if they were going to be fruitful or vegetative next year. They made that decision toward fruitfulness based on whether sunlight was hitting them during the day or not. Our job back then was pruning out light robbing interior sucker growth.
If we get carried away and open the tree too much, we can sunburn and kill our support structure. If we don’t do enough, we won’t have fruit where we want it. The best fruit grows on strong branches closest to the main structure which we call scaffolds. ***Stay with me here cause this next part’s important!
Based on what happened back there in June and July, we either have a potential good crop where we want it or not. Our leaves right now are producing energy, our roots are gathering nutrition, and all of it’s being stored for next year. Our summer pruning right now is to remove everything that isn’t contributing positively towards next year’s crop; it’s all about the next crop, it’s all about the fruit. And good fruit is a compounding of good decisions on all levels made over the last month or two, decade or two, generation or two.
The application to my life is really easy. I’m making good fruit today or not because of compounded decisions made back there. Everything that isn’t contributing positively towards good fruit has to be regularly and ruthlessly removed, exposure to positive light has to be maintained, fueled by healthy nutrition. Now go make some good fruit.