Tree Talk: Planting an orchard in Taos brings community out


Taos maintains a long history of fruit orchards. Many fruit trees thrive here. And with care – and a little luck from the weather – yield copious quantities of delicious fruit for people (and some birds and bears).

Besides contributing to sustainable local agriculture, the old orchards of Taos connect us with past generations who conceived the idea to plant the trees in the first place. When you put a sapling in the ground, you are well aware that both its care and its benefits extend beyond your own lifetime. The possibility for failure is strong, especially today, given extreme climate conditions and the loss of agricultural land to development.

But we persist, guided by the people and trees that came before. Today, we appreciate the trees that people planted 20, 50 or even 100 years ago. Many are still standing in the sun and rain, and still bear fruit. Many families know the story of where a tree came from and who planted it — and which kinds were their favorites — like the scraggly apricot by the fence, or the majestic apple in the backyard or the tall pear in the field that tasted so good you were torn between sharing and keeping them all for yourself.

On Sept. 24 and 25, the community came together to plant an orchard at Gusdorf Park at the dogleg in Gusdorf Road. This park has long been needing a lift, so when the opportunity arose to plant trees here, the energy and resources came together to make it happen. Adjacent to the park is the SmArt House, an after-school arts and science program of Youth Heartline. The Heartwood Coalition, a tree planting and advocacy group, stepped in to ask the kids what kind of trees they would like to see in their park. The kids voted unanimously in favor of those that bore fruit. The magic of food growing on trees inspired many questions and spurred joyful participation in the entire process. Together, we chose the kinds of fruit trees we would like to see, that also do well with the local soils and climate.

On a gorgeous planting day, the enthusiasm was unstoppable. Planting crews were trained, tools were snatched up and the digging began. The new trees were carefully situated into their environs with great love and respect. We had allowed two days for the planting, but by 3 p.m. on Saturday, I looked up and all of the trees were in their spots and watered, mulched and admired. This left Sunday to complete the irrigation system. Trenches were dug, pipe laid and the connections made to get water to the trees by the end of the day.

A total of 43 new trees were planted, adding to the six planted this past spring. The automatic irrigation system will ensure their survival over time. We planted apples, pears, plums, peaches, cherries, apricots, crabapples, an accolade elm and boxelder. Shrubs planted include elderberries, currants, chokecherries and grapes. No chemicals will ever be used on these trees and shrubs. The fruit will be safe to eat.

About 40 people participated in the planting, including children, parents, artists, arborists, landscapers and interested citizens. Groups that contributed funding, resources or labor include Youth Heartline, the Northern Regional Housing Authority, SmArt House, Los Jardineros, Taos Community Foundation, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Taos Heartwood Coalition, Tooley’s Trees, Taos Gold Apricot, PBJ Trees, Felix!, Aldo’s Arbor and Sound Tree.

The planting was a spirited success, boding well for the future of another in a long tradition of orchards in Taos. The trees enjoy visitors, by the way.

The next Taos Tree Board regular meeting at 120 Civic Plaza Drive is Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. All are invited.


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