by Laura Parr
This morning feels just like autumn should: crisp and breezy but dry. I stand here watching children pulping apples into juice, the concentration on their faces melting into laughter as nectar comes flowing from the bottom of the press.
With the Stanmer Park orchards as a backdrop, Brighton Permaculture Trust is celebrating its annual Apple Day, and I am reminded that if permaculture is going to succeed, it is the children we need to engage.
While adults stroll around the gardens, buying organic apples and honey from the orchards, devouring mouthfuls of home-baked crumble and learning how to identify rare apples, the children play sports and are entertained with apple-themed tales beneath the boughs of an old apple tree.
One of the strongest tasks of permaculture today has to be arming our children with food knowledge, and, in order for them to want to learn, it has to be made fun. I watch a child of ten climbing the orchard trees during one of permaculturist, Bryn Thomas's, orchard tours. He wasn't consciously listening to Bryn's words, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that he was immersed – if only for a few hours – in a wholesome culture. Children are like sponges, and what we see as mere incidents, children experience as education.
"It's been an appalling year for fruit," says Bryn, and it has. The Bramleys we are standing by usually gives a few tonnes of fruit, but this year they only managed two and a half kilos. And that's a story that has been echoed around the country. This year's unusually wet weather meant the bees didn't pollinate in May, which led to a poor harvest. But this is something that future generations may have to deal with more and more as our food sources become ever more insecure.
Living, as so many of us do, in hectic cities, it is easy for those who are not involved in projects to feel that no one cares about nature any more. But days like Apple Day bring glimmers of light. Amidst screams of delight, I notice that the group of children before me have learned to work as a team, each one patiently waiting his go at turning the apple press's great lever, and I am filled with hope for the future.