By April Costa, MFT Lands Steward
Apple season might be my favorite time of year. The onset of late summer with its dry days, chilly nights, and day-long chirping of crickets brings the fruit that’s been growing on the apple trees out of hiding. Where the old trees of roadsides and field edges blended into their surroundings, they now rise to the forefront, given away by their brightly colored fruits. So far this season I’ve seen bright pink mixed with yellow/green, pale yellows, bright greens, striped red, and dusty tans. I can’t help but pick a sun-warmed apple off of the wild trees that I pass, polish it on my sleeve, and bite into it to see if it is sweet enough for eating. There are plenty of decent “cider apples” on the wild trees, but fewer that are good for eating.
As my day job, I have the pleasure of visiting farms across central Maine for MFT. I meet with farmers and work with them after their land is protected by a conservation easement to ensure that they’re meeting the terms of their easements and answer any questions that they might have. The beginning of late summer and apple season signals a turn in the weather to a more comfortable workday for me: no more heat, fewer bugs, full farm stands.
I often think about our apple trees here in New England. While commonly referred to as “wild”, most were likely cultivated by humans at one point in time. I see them across the landscape when I’m visiting farms, sometimes even deep in the woods next to a stone cellar hole alongside an old woods road. They’ve been well received on the landscape, never making it onto the list of invasive plants that have become buzzwords in many land conservation discussions. Rather, apples enhance their surroundings by providing an important food source without propagating too quickly and choking out the surrounding species that are already there.
On my way home from my farm visits lately I’ve been thinking about blending with the landscape, like the apple trees. Many of the farmers who I meet try to do the same with their farming practices. They produce food while also improving the soil they’re working in, making it possible to contribute to the landscape while at the same time providing a food source to Maine’s inhabitants. I look forward to visiting these protected farms year after year to see each farmers continued investment in their land.