As I travel across this county I see the shape of imagination, of energy formed into motion. I see the absolute power of resolve.
For over 120 years these orchards of Montezuma County have been the living part of this landscape, connective tissue for people and place, a memory bank for generations. These orchards are a vision of a future filled with plenty, planted and tended by people that knew how to do with less. They represent the resolute insistence of individuals that believed in their ability to do something beyond their own survival.
Orchards are and have always been about faith in this future. Not one fantasized but one created by the actions and inclinations of now. Orchards are windmills meant to be charged at; they are an ideal that is by its nature audacious. To walk into the woods and feed yourself by no other act than eating fruit from a tree. Can I look through the still water of time and see now before me Eden reflected? Can I taste that fruit?
But here are these trees, these orchards. They are tangible, not imagined without toil but root in soil, limb in sun, blossom in wind. They are the work of a 94-year-old’s grandparents passed on to a 36-year-old unsure of the whole family history but able to savor the flesh of the seed just the same.
These trees are here for all to share. This is the fruit of labor long ago paid. The debt is ours but with a bill no greater than the recognition, the participation, the willing involvement of ourselves in these orchards of Montezuma County.
This March is the 29th anniversary of the Four States Agricultural Exposition. That is a long time to bring people together.
This year, in spite of my most persistent stonewalling, my most exuberant procrastination, and surely because of my most dedicated distractions, the idea of grange has flourished. A grange was the place in rural America where people got together to share knowledge and find solutions. They were not partisan, they were not divisive. They were a tool for people that needed to get things done.
During the last two Expos we have brought in speakers and had classes on different aspects of agriculture. We are not trying to build a physical structure but instead honor that Jeffersonian belief that an educated group of farmers contributes more to our republic.
This year we will have more speakers and classes from across the agriculture spectrum. But what I am really happy about, that which keeps me moving, is our orchard program. Grafter and orchard-est Gordon Tooley will be coming up from New Mexico. He will speak on orchards and he and I will be doing a grafting workshop. There will be a class on setting up orchards and again the Montezuma County Historical Society will be helping out with the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project.
If ever you have driven down a county road and looked upon an orchard and wondered about the passing of time stored in that wood, if ever the experiences of days gone are refreshed with the blossoming of spring, or the crisp bite of an apple from the tree; if ever your imagination desired that the doubt of toil should be transformed into the fertility of something that can outlast your own persistence and yet have that same tenacity to be a living part of this place, accessible to all who will find it, then be a part of these orchards of Montezuma County. They are here for all to share.
Jude Schuenemeyer is co-owner of Let It Grow Garden Café and Nursery in Montezuma County.