Navigating the fruit tree-human relations of the community orchard

Authors: Megan Betz*, Indiana University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Land Use, Biogeography
Keywords: urban agriculture, multispecies research, community orchards, companion species
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Harding, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit organization and one-acre orchard open to the public, is nearing its ninth year. As numbers of volunteers increase and trees mature, the Orchard is revisiting one of most lasting, most evocative questions: Who gets the harvest, and how is that decided? In the past, the lack of a harvest policy left most participants unconcerned: harvests were small, and as long as the fruit was eaten and not wasted, that seemed to be a success. Now, as trees have the capacity to produce larger harvests, participants are anticipating their “fair share” of the fruit. So, what happens when you come to harvest but all the fruit is gone? And how does a community respond when the primary harvester is nonhuman–unwilling or unable to follow any harvesting practices put forward by the organization? After two years of vanishing peaches, I take steps to learn who is making off with the harvest and then explore what this tells us about multispecies relations in community orchards. This exploration centers on the trees themselves, as the organization adapts to and builds itself around the trees it tends, often describing their labor as in response to the trees or appreciated by the trees. How do the significant otherness (Haraway 2003) between fruit tree and orchardist, along with the tree’s life cycle and susceptibility to threats, inform the community that emerges in “community orchards”? And what happens when you get more more-than-humans than you bargained for in your multispecies research?

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login