vibrant red cherries in the heat of summer.
Seated cross-legged between the two towering maples on our front lawn, I felt the sole witness to the magic of what made up a farm. As a young child, the men and women and the machines seemed to appear magically out of the infinite rows. At the end of the day, they would disappear with equal mystery into the depths of the orchard. And to discover for myself, as I eventually, inevitably did, the flavor of a freshly ripe cherry, was something akin to discovering a treasure in my own backyard.
Two years ago, following the death of a young Cherry Queen contestant to an
aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), I began researching the correlation between NHL and agricultural practices in Northern Michigan. I felt enormous inner-conflict when I discovered organophosphates, used commonly in cherry and apple orchards, and organochlorines were linked to several forms of soft tissue cancers. NHL is the leading cancer associated with pesticides, and in a heavily agricultural area, researchers typically see an increased incidence of these forms of cancer.
My own family (I have three young children) so enjoyed picking cherries out at the farm where I once lived. Our memories of this time are priceless. After my research and diagnosis one year later with the very same cancer I had spent the previous year researching, we stopped picking cherries at the conventional farm and instead purchased from an organic farm through the local Oryana cooperative. Still, my love of the farm and farming was very much alive and nothing could substitute the experience of tasting a freshly ripe cherry right off the tree, or the pleasure of being present on the farm. It was with great sorrow we let this experience go.
Earlier this spring, I began working at the Eco Learning Center, a few miles south of Suttons Bay on Bingham Rd. Weve spent summers working there in the past, but the last two years were such a flurry of activity, we hadnt so much as visited the farm. About a month ago, Erick, the girls and I walked up the winding road, past the vineyard and discovered something entirely new. The center had taken on a massive project: To grow apples, plums, cherries, apricots, currants and other berries, using the principles of biodynamics.
Rather than plant rows of trees, plantings occur in guilds, or companion groupings, which create an environment of health and well-being for the tree and those who work on the farm. There are still rows, but they are spaced differently than in the conventional orchard. I wont go into great detail (you can see it for yourself), but I am thrilled to be learning about the principles of biodynamics and permaculture together in such a beautiful, healing and sacred place.
Cancer shook me to the core, but I am grateful for the experience. It truly made me a better person. And now it is time for me to do some healing; both physically and emotionally, getting back to the place I loved most as a child; rediscovering and reclaiming the magic of the orchard.
-- In healing and in wellness, Samantha Tengelitsch & family