“Why does a permaculture organisation plant so many trees?”
Not a surprising question!
It might not be immediately obvious how our projects with fruit and orchards – which include restoring and managing old orchards, propagating local Sussex varieties, planting community orchards, collecting apples that would go to waste and use them to make juices and chutneys, hosting Apple Day, and running planting and pruning courses – support permaculture principles.
There are actually a number of ways in which growing apples can meet the three permaculture ethics and some of the principles. Let’s take a look at a few.
Some of the orchards that Brighton Permaculture Trust manages were really neglected and have now been restored. Their historical value has been recognised by Plant Heritage.
All of the orchards we manage are organic, meaning that we don’t use pesticides and fertilisers. This keeps pollutants out of the soil and water. In general, perennials (plants that come back every year, such as apple trees) require less inputs than annuals.
The soil in our orchards isn’t dug, which is beneficial for the soil structure and the many organisms that live there. We keep the grass and wildflowers in check by scything, a technique that doesn’t require any fossil fuels. And our orchards are underplanted with wildflowers to help with pollination and provide food for the pollinators.
The apple trees benefit the environment in and of themselves. Having more trees helps to slow down rain and encourages the water to infiltrate the soil. The trees also benefit the air by using carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
Increasingly, the amount of locally produced food – and not cold storing the apples – means that the apples have a smaller ecological impact than if they had come from overseas.
Fresh, seasonal, organic food is thought to be healthier for people (and we think it’s tastier, too!).
On a wider level, it’s rewarding to see community orchards help bring communities together. Helping schools plant orchards mean we’re helping children learn about where their food comes from.
The planting of an orchard itself is also rewarding. Volunteers benefit from working outside, getting to meet other like-minded people, eating fresh, local and organic food, learning new skills, and having fun. For those that get paid for their work, planning and planting orchards contributes to their livelihood.
Some would argue that orchards are beautiful as well – an often overlooked aspect of people care!
Brighton Permaculture Trust’s scrumping project collects apples that would otherwise have gone to waste and uses them for juices, chutneys, and some of the many delights on sale at the Apple Cafe during Apple Day Brighton each autumn at Stanmer Park.
As an organisation, we’re committed to sharing our knowledge and expertise about growing apples, both locally and overseas. We’ve collaborated with French apple producers through our Orchards without Borders project, and we’ve recently sought to reach a wider audience with a YouTube video sharing our tree-planting tips.
Produce no waste
The scrumping project uses what would have been a waste product – apples left hanging on the tree – and transforms them into something both useful and delicious, namely juices and chutneys!
Use and value diversity
We don’t grow just one variety of apple in our orchards. Rather, we have a commitment to planting a greater variety of fruits which flower and ripen at different times.
Brighton Permaculture Trust has worked hard to document, propagate, and plant out a number of varieties of Sussex apples. These trees are often better adapted to the local conditions, and they keep alive part of the story and the culture of Sussex ( learn more). Our work has been recognised by Plant Heritage, which made our Sussex apple collection part of the national collection.
Integrate rather than segregate
We have worked with many other organisations, like the Community Chef, to inspire people to cook with apples in different ways. Brighton Permaculture Trust has also been sharing its experience with apple growers in Normandy and creating beneficial connections.
Permaculture and apples go hand in hand
Hopefully, it’s clear now why our work with fruit and orchards fits so perfectly with our permaculture ethic. If you feel inspired to get involved, we urge you to sign up as a volunteer for scrumping opportunities aplenty, attend our free Apple Day event held in September at Stanmer Park, or browse our range of fruit/orchard courses.