You’d think it was the fruit that got us out of bed in the morning. After all, we are on something of a mission to re-fruit the UK.
But actually, our ambitions go further even than that.
My hope is that we are playing a part – just a part - in building a future for people that balances our needs with those of the flows and demands of the planet we’re on, and the other life we share it with.
That’s because as I see it, that future probably won’t exist without well-connected, collaborative, local communities at the heart of it.
When we are not connected, we are apart and when we are apart, we are less likely to work together or understand each other. We are less likely to collaborate and more likely to pitch our interests against others. We are more likely to disengage from some of the big decisions that affect us. We are less likely to form the rich and diverse networks upon which our common interests, collaboration and understanding thrive.
And that is one reason why The Orchard Project creates community orchards. Not just orchards, but community orchards.
At the heart of our model and our ambitions is the desire to catalyse the creation of vibrant common spaces. Spaces that are valued and shared by people local to that space, and sometimes beyond.
What greater symbol of a common, shared community space can there be than a tree giving its fruit to whoever is passing by, free of charge and free of the need for permission? A space and a bounty that is everyone’s and no-one’s, in which we all have an interest and for which we share a responsibility.
When we plant a fruit tree at The Orchard Project, we put a good deal of thought into the soil: its condition now and its needs for the future. We plant things like comfrey to help provide the soil, and so the fruit trees, with some of the minerals they need. We encourage beneficial soil fungi that will help the trees reach deeper and wider for their nutrients. We encourage local orchard carers to keep trees watered and mulched, to protect the tree from facing too many stresses from competition or drought.
So much of the future health of a fruit tree starts with the soil. And perhaps predictably, there is an analogy there.
We start at the bottom to create something that bears shared fruit for generations. Likewise, the roots of a fruitful society grow in rich, healthy, diverse, collaborative communities. So it’s not just about the fruit. Every community orchard is a step towards more connection, more sharing and a more resilient society.
Neil Kingsnorth, Chief Exec, The Orchard Project