A hearty contingent of FruitGuys (with friends and families in tow) went to Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol, CA this weekend to help farmer Torrey Olson plant new trees. Part Fresh-Air fund, part Farm Steward project, planting pear trees with Torrey was a great excuse to get out to the country and help a friend.
Torrey supplies the FruitGuys with a variety of delicious Asian pears for the West Coast fruit cases. He farms the thriving organic orchard with his wife Lucy and son Henry. And although there is currently no fruit to harvest, there is still work to be done. New trees always need to be planted: some trees succumb to blight on the leaves or critters gnawing their roots. In a full production orchard every spot is valuable and each row needs irrigation, pruning, and love. Mid-winter is the ideal time to plant seedlings since they are dormant.
Olympia Asian Pear seedlings were the trees Torrey chose to plant. Olympias make a large, round, crisp, and firm fruit. "Dan likes 'em," Torrey said of our FruitGuys fruit buyer. The baby trees were just a bare root ball with a three-foot stem and one or two branches. Big holes needed to be dug, and this is where FruitGuys visitors came in handy. Under Torrey's tutelage we all learned the drill: one to dig the hole, one to hold the seedling, one to hoe the dirt gently back in, one to get the compost, and one to tell the jokes.
Although there was great satisfaction in helping our friend plant 75 trees, there was no instant gratification. These new trees did not bear fruit until the 2012 harvest. An afternoon spent investing in future FruitGuys fruit was well worth it, and the kids got to romp in the grass and climb on the tractor too. The weather held up beautifully, and only when they sky turned grey and nimbostratus clouds gathered did Torrey cock an eyebrow with an eye to the northern sky and say, "rain's on the way, time to put away the tools."
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She's been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.