Before COVID-19 hit, we had a grand plan to invite a group of friends from the city for a harvest gathering. We were planning to pick apples while listening to music, dancing, telling tales, and feasting to our heart’s content. Suddenly we were confronted with the grim reality that a few of us were going to be picking every single apple in the orchards. But then, right before lockdown, there was a fortunate turn in events - four travellers from the gipsy fair needed a place to stay and we offered them refuge on the land. It turned out that they’re absolutely lovely and very keen to help out on the farm!
The apple harvest was a breeze with their help! In two days we had 15 large wooden bins full to the brim with Monty’s, ready for juicing and making into a delicious mulled apple concoction -Monty's Surprise. We could have picked all the apples ourselves, but it would have been a hard and frustrating slog. The key to growing and harvesting good quality food is collaboration.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that makes such a simple solution difficult to realise. Farmers often need to work alone, so they can turn a profit, and are forced to cut corners to cope with the workload. It’s easy to point the finger at farmers for using products like pesticides, but pests and weeds are very difficult to manage on your own. Imagine if there was an urban to rural shift and people collaborated in communities to support their livelihoods once again!
In this situation, we were lucky to have lovely and generous people to work with, but sometimes humans can be more challenging to cooperate with. One reason for this is that many of our schools in Aotearoa educate people to compete against one another. We are rarely taught to be aware of how we are affecting the people around us and groups as a whole.
How often have you stopped and reflected on everyone’s behaviour in a group situation? Imagine if you spent two days harvesting apples with your friends and at the end of each day you spent an hour or two having honest conversations about how you affected each other. You would very quickly learn both how you were contributing to the group and how you were disrupting it. It might be hard to hear at first, but as you become aware of the consequences to your behaviour you would quickly adapt to the feedback. Soon your group would be collaborating harmoniously and everyone would be better off.
A Monty Surprise apple can be quite a feast alone, but if you share it with the people around you then it is a very good time. Share the mahi and share in the harvest.