A variety of fruits and vegetables grown with care and attention at neighborhood farms form the backbone of a healthy diet. These small farms, often passed down from generation to generation, are the supporting structure of strong and resilient local communities. I feel a special connection to one orchard in particular because of its consistent commitment to our community. During a routine visit to the local farmer’s market, I told the orchard’s farmer I wanted to honor that dedication. Financial support by buying her produce simply can’t match the amount of hard work and the role farms play in our lives.
Explaining that their two orchards have been in the family for three generations starting with her grandfather, she shared a stack of old family photos and gave me several Macoun heirloom apple seeds from a nearly-century-old tree on the orchard. Pouring over the photographs for more than a month trying to decide which image truly captured her farm’s multi-generational legacy, I finally settled on one that had all the right elements. In it, the farmer is four-years-old, sitting on a trailer hooked to the back of her father’s tractor as it rolls through their apple orchard, grinning ear-to-ear with a half-eaten apple in her hand.
As I started to carve this scene into one of the Macoun seeds, I quickly realized it was fighting me. Its coat was very fibrous and each cut created a splintered and frayed incision, akin to cutting fabric with dull scissors. After some creative problem solving and experimenting with a variety of tools, I settled on a modified dental burr that gradually cut into the seed coat without producing the fabric-like frill. Since the seed was so small, I quickly discovered it was impossible to reproduce all the details in the photo. Acknowledging my artistic limitations, I chose to distill the images in the photo into a single simple symbol representing its essence… a child’s hand holding a half-eaten apple.
After many failed attempts to understand and work with what the seed allowed me to do, I finally arrived at something that felt complete. Showing the augmented seed to the farmer, she said it captured the spirit of her family’s farm and how precious it is to her. Immediately thanking me, she told me to take the produce in my overflowing shopping basket free of charge. Of course, I insisted on paying in full, telling her of my desire to support her livelihood. To this day, her young niece who regularly helps at the booth often mentions the seed.
Unlike most common apple varieties, whose seeds won’t reproduce true to the cultivar of its fruit, this engraved seed will preserve the lineage of one family’s hard work. It will become a living treasure, passed down to the 4th generation caretakers of these same old fruit trees, along with the farm’s commitment to nurturing its community.