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Quaker Oaks- Reaching "Critical Mast"

June 16, 2018

In the 1930's through WW II not 2.4 million trees, but rather 2.4 BILLION trees were planted during Roosevelt's New Deal. Extraordinary things were happening. A Quaker named Arthur Morgan was appointed as head of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) under the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) whose mission it was to improve the lives of those in that region. Mountainous and isolated communities struggled on may levels during the depression and the environmental devastation of the dust bowl was in full force. Self reliance and a new approach to agriculture was one of the issues addressed. Another Quaker, J. Russell Smith, had written a sentinel book called "Tree Crops a permanent agriculture" and in it he noted the environmental destruction caused by annual agriculture and the resulting desertification of the earth graphically illustrated with an image of a train wrapped around the world 18 times hauling all the topsoil that was eroding yearly from farms in the U.S. In it he intelligently laid out a strategy for us to begin the conversion from the energy intensive, extractive process of annual commodities like corn, soy, wheat to tree crops that do not utilize any cultivation, expensive inputs, or fossil fuels. This was, and is especially pertinent to the steep contours of a cash poor Appalachian region and the precariousness of the rest of the world. 

 

Inspired by J. Russell Smith's book, Arthur Morgan contacted J. Russell Smith,  and asked him if he had any recommendations of a person to lead the work the vision outlined in in his book. He recommended  yet another Quaker "Friend" John Hershey from Pennsylvania, as the nursery man to implement the task of raising and sending forth 10's of thousands of cultivar native nuts and fruits. Paw paws, persimmon both Asian and American, hickories, black walnuts, hazelnuts , jujubes and so many other food producing perennials were sent out to farmers throughout the Tennessee Valley. Yes, all the trees we think are hip and trendy these days were actually known and distributed 90 years ago- by the American government no less! Dont worry, the tree crop resurgence isn't just reinventing the wheel, we are merely fixing the flat that happened after WW II when funding for these projects was diverted to chemical companies developing the "Green Revolution". We are carrying forth the work these pioneers started.

 

So in the spirit of those three innovative Quakers who cared so deeply for the future of the world we are initiating the Quaker Oaks Tree Crop revival this September in Pennsylvania to carry forth this work. The intention is to gather around the idea of collaboratively transitioning annual commodity agriculture to perennial tree crops. There are many people who are working hard towards this goal, and bring their own special expertise to the effort, but it is too big to do alone and only so deep one can go on social media. There is something profound that transpires between us when we are together as humans face to face with a crackling fire between us rather than a computer screen. 

 

With the dynamic state of our envrio/eco/socio/ political world it is grossly apparent that expediting implementation of a perennial agriculture is of the utmost importance. In times of rapid change, a species's survival  depends on adaptation through hybridization. Conferences are opportunities to hybridize ideas, gatherings are opportunities to make friends, and revivals are events to be rejuvinated. Quaker Oaks tree crops conference is all of these.

 

Food from forest trees is referred to as "mast" and it has been critical for the survival of humans over the ages. It will take a critical mass of collaborative people to harness this "critical mast" of a perennial agriculture of which I speak. 

 

Trees can fix anything. It is up to us to gather around them reverently, and like the Quakers, listen to the wisdom they have to offer and work together to create a world of equanimity, abundance and diversity.  

 

 

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