Eliza Greenman, Millennial Orchardist


Andrew WeidmanThe world we live in is vastly different from the one that most of us grew up in. It’s faster, more connected, and ultimately in danger of losing incredible amounts of information and ability. That last sentence seems at odds with the potential of the internet, a vast library virtually spanning the globe, bringing nearly every book, every article, every paper and message board written to your fingertips with just a few keystrokes, but it’s true. How much skill, how much information, how much ability is written not in ink but in ability, stored not in bookshelves or digital files, but in muscle memory and practice? How much is in danger of being lost as Time and the Grave claim our oldest and richest repositories of the Library of Experience?

Eliza Portrait

Enter Eliza Greenman. I had the good fortune and extreme pleasure to hear her speak a few weeks ago, when she spent the day with the Backyard Fruit Growers in Lancaster PA. Who are the Backyard Fruit Growers? Well, they’re people who grow fruit in their backyards. They share skills and tips, scion wood for grafting and cuttings for rooting, seeds and ideas. In short, they maintain a Library of Experience of their own, sharing and conserving information on a subject they are passionate about: growing good, healthy fruit and preserving rare and antique varieties of fruit.

Back to Ms. Greenman. She refers to herself as a ‘perennial millennial,’ and has decided to return to the land, two generations after her family left it. She recalls her mother coming home from work, rubbing tired feet and complaining about how much they hurt, a memory that led her to decide she’d never follow a career that required that kind of footwear. Forestry requires a very different kind of gear, and for that reason, among others, she chose to become a forester.

Working in a ‘white, older male dominated profession’ and lacking a desire to make paper, Eliza turned her attention to food producing trees. She found herself living on an island in Maine, surrounded by hundreds of neglected apple trees, and did what any sensible young person probably wouldn’t think of doing — she learned how to prune one.

Apple Spread

1/29/2016 7:09:13 PM

Dave, I'm glad you enjoyed reading Eliza's story. In person, she is an incredibly dynamic and passionate young woman. Her energy is contagious, and it's difficult not to share her excitement for apples, cider and fruit exploration. I agree, she needs the security of land she can control herself, and I hope she can make that dream a reality soon. As long as she and others like her continue to seek out forgotten trees, there is hope for the orchards and gardens you spoke of. This spring, I plan on grafting a Vermont Beauty pear of my own, from Eliza's stock. That's one more tree standing between the variety and oblivion.

1/26/2016 1:19:59 PM

Andrew, since my grandson really does eat an apple a day, my intrested was piqued at saving old apple orchards. I thought it interesting about the cider industry wanting the less than perfect apples. City folks in general are so convinced that fruits and vegetables should be perfect in every way that they won't even consider a blemish here or there. They will sacrifice taste and nutrition to have a perfect piece of fruit or vegetable. It's pretty noble that Eliza has taken a career path that probably doesn't pay much but gives great personal satisfaction. As the number of farms continues to increase in size and derelict home places deteriorate, old orchards and garden areas try to survive. Almost every forgotten farm place in the Midwest has a sad orchard in neglect and a patch of rhubarb with a patch of asparagus near by. It's a dismal reminder of what once was a thriving home place is now left to die a slow disintegrating death. I hope that Eliza finds her long term piece of land to nurture endangered species. ***** Have a great apple day.

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