The peach trees my 90-year-old friend Rod planted as an important organic agriculture experiment are blooming. They are in a public park and will most likely be cut down this year so that $80,000 of taxpayer money can be spent to create an open play field in a spot that is currently open for anyone who wants to picnic, toss a frisbee, fly a kite or otherwise play. I have done what I can to try to save them, and I am now moving on. I enjoyed their final flowering. You can read more about public fruit trees in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. I also include fruit trees on the Sustainability-in-Action Bike Tour in the City of Atlanta.
If interested, here is the final post I wrote about Rod on FoodShed Planet:
Will they know, years from now, that a world-renowned organic farmer stood here and planted four tiny peach tree saplings in public land where he asked for and received permission, in a row that had years earlier been used to teach middle schoolers how to grow food and that they are necessary?
Will they know the trees, all different varieties, were elevated and mounded up in expertly-crafted compost, only watered the day they were planted, treated several times a year with a powerful and proprietary compost tea, and were gorgeous and disease-free at the three-year point?
Will they know that this man believed he could prove commercial viability for organic peaches in hot and humid Georgia, where oak rot and other diseases impede organic peach tree growing, and in Florida, where additional diseases have already decimated the citrus crop?
Will they recognize that the knowledge gained from this small experiment could change the entire industry and could provide a healthy peach option to those trying to avoid the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables most toxic to consume, where non-organic peaches are #1?
Will they know that commercial farmers were lining up from day one, and especially after the first peaches appeared in year three, to find out what he discovered?
Will they also know that this man helped start the largest volunteer-run community garden in the state of Georgia, right here in this park, that he gifted the community with a perennial bed of asparagus right after his 80th birthday, and that almost everything good about what was an unloved, unused piece of land had his hands in it?
Will they appreciate that he was the first one up the pear tree in the center of this city the first of many years when 600 pounds of fruit was harvested in a mere half hour for local food pantries?
Will they realize that this national treasure, after a career on farms in California, was the farm consultant at what is arguably the largest certified organic farm in the state of Georgia, where he delivered daily miracles including a shocking return-on-investment in turmeric harvests and sales, and that he changed the course of history at farms all over the world?
Will they remember that a new master plan for this park that called for an open playing field in this very spot didn’t recognize the existence of this project at all but could be compatible with it?
Will they one day sit at a picnic table beneath a stand of trees laden with fuzzy, blushed peaches (surrounded by heirloom sorghum that enhances the soil biology and provides a food source to birds) on the edge of the field and give thanks to a man they never knew and a city that saved his legacy?
Will they even care that a man stood here and made a measurable difference?