To grow as a tree

by Sara Frank

At the end of May, my husband and I were blessed with our first child, Alyce Louise. Once she was old enough and I was stable enough to be out and about, I simply could not wait to take her to our farm.

Across the orchard, the trees are dotted with round pearls of potential. The fields are a rich green with a sprinkling of brilliant wildflowers. The ponds are a deep blue, casually occupied by ducks, geese and sunning turtles and frogs. It’s a truly magical place made all the more lovely by the presence of my daughter. I am so excited for her to grow up in this place and, hopefully, take away some life lessons that can only be learned in the orchard.

Hope and Determination

Throughout the seasons, we rely heavily on hope. We hope for good weather, for good crops, for good harvests. When those things don’t come, we have determination – even the trees show determination, fighting to produce and live despite all. As farmers, it is that hope and determination that makes the best times so rich and the hard times bearable. It is a practice that should be applied to all walks of life.

Patience and Endurance

It takes time to produce fruit, be it in the trees or in our own lives. It takes cultivation and care, pruning out the suckers, watering when necessary and providing the proper nutrients to grow strong and healthy. Sometimes there are storms or sickness and trees are knocked over or die. We endure in these times, learning from our mistakes, replanting and pursuing a new direction. We never give up because we know there is something better coming.

Hard Work and Achievement

Nothing quite beats being your own boss, setting your own goals and achieving them. I remember helping plant my first orchard. It was a hot summer day and the sweat poured down our backs as we worked the field, transforming it into neat rows of tiny saplings. For years afterward I would help care for those young trees, watching them grow and doing all we could to protect them. Four years later they started producing fruit and those apples were probably the sweetest I’d ever tasted because I had helped grow them. The toil and trouble is worth the reward. It makes you strong and resilient. It gives you a reward that no one else can.

Happiness and Appreciation

Working so hard gives way to a true happiness and appreciation I think many people miss out on. The peacefulness of the orchard reigns over the chaos and its beauty is humbling. We have appreciation and thankfulness for all the things we have because we worked for it with unprecedented hours and sweat. When life becomes overwhelming, it is helpful to take a step back from the tree in order to observe the whole orchard.

Understanding Food and Accountability

So many people are out of touch with where their food comes from and what real food looks, smells and tastes like. Living on a farm grants you access to the reality of food and the life that goes into growing it. It also gives you a close understanding of how the earth works, what it needs, what harms it, and how your actions affect everything around you. Our choices determine if our output will be toxic or clean. It is a reflection of life: What we do to the farm can be compared to how we live our lives. Will we preserve and grow? Or will we be toxic and kill off the things around us?

I don’t know if my daughter will be a farmer when she grows up, but I do know that there’s no other place I would want to raise her. Wherever her path takes her, I know her roots will be strong and she will have the experience and knowledge to go where she needs to, thanks to our roots in the apple trees and a life grounded in humble greatness.

Sara Frank currently serves on the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau and helps run Cold Springs Orchards with her family.