Three years ago Katie was looking for someone to join forces with her and Merv in the bare rooted fruit tree nursery. They had been doing it for years together, Katie learning everything about growing new fruit trees from scratch side by side with her dad Merv. They wanted to ramp up production and spread the skill and knowledge set amongst more people than just Katie and Merv, and so they asked me (Sas) to jump on board. Grafting and Budding are both arts that are being lost as not many people have the opportunity or the reason to learn and practice them these days, but as Merv says all the time ‘it costs you nothing to give it a go, and you might just come out with a few good fruit trees at the other end’.
I first met Merv about nine years ago when I was the ‘Harvest Coordinator’ for the Growing Abundance Project. At that time Katie and I organised for Merv to run a number of Grafting and Budding workshops for the local community. I was so taken by Merv’s gentleness and humility guiding all of us complete novices through all the steps from sharpening and selecting the right knife, to how to skilfully (in his case- not so in ours) execute a range of different kinds of graft and bud types. He has been actively using these skills for well over fifty years, and his sure and steady hands know how to not only graft and bud but care for root stock and seedling trees from the very first moment. Carefully keeping an eye on the trees as they grow and nurturing them into healthy trees.
I jumped at the opportunity to work side by side with Katie and Merv, learning from their combined experience of over 70 years of budding and grafting. Monday afternoons have been such a joy, when I could put the hectic pace of Gung Hoe to one side for a few hours and kneel down in a forest of seedling trees, learning and practising this old art. Often in quiet, sometimes with chatter and laughter, we would work together side by side down the rows. I have learnt so much from Merv and Katie not just about grafting, but also about working in a small group with harmony and respect, about honouring generations of knowledge, connection and skill and about practice, practice, practice! Grafting and Budding also teaches you to be truly present and mindful in the moment. One moment of distraction or wondering thoughts and you quickly slice open a thumb (especially when Merv has just sharpened the knives!)
Since I injured my back, I’ve had to think long and hard about how I work and how I can continue to do what I love in a way that is sustainable for my body and mind. Juggling three businesses and involvement in the Co-op over the past five years has taken its toll and I’ve realised that I need to rein it in a little. And so I’ve made the extremely difficult decision to stop being a formal partner in the Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery business. I hope to still make guest appearances during grafting and budding time, so I can give a hand where I can, stay connected with Merv especially (I see Katie all the time!) and also keep my skills up. Since I’ve been horizontal over the busiest time in the Nursery, a couple of Katie’s sisters and one of her daughters has stepped in to help. So who knows, the nursery might reinvent itself as a tri-generational endeavour, and what a beautiful thing that would be!!
I am so grateful to Katie and Merv for welcoming me into the nursery, teaching me so much and being so understanding when the hectic pace of the market garden seasons meant that I couldn’t be as present to the nursery work as I would have liked to. I’m looking forward to watching the nursery business blossom and diversify over the coming years. It is such a gift to have a nursery producing its own heritage and organic fruit trees locally, adapted to our conditions and soils. Very few other towns have access to such a gem.