Fifty More Chances

Earlier this month, I was sitting in a circle with thirty other East Coast orchardists discussing theories, observations, research, what’s next and experiments in the realm of holistic/organic/alternative orchard management. We concluded this year’s meeting with talk about marketing and the different techniques used by the group to sell apples.  Being a user of social media (I use it more than most in that group), I piped up to tell everyone how in the past year, a blog post of mine was picked up by a larger blog (, turned into an interview, and was read and retweeted by MC Hammer to his 3.5 million twitter followers.  The title: “Why We Should All Consider Eating Ugly Fruit.” Thanks to social media, a single blog post with a readership of a few hundred turned into hundreds of thousands of people seeing a title about eating ugly fruit (#eatuglyapples).

As a result of this public exposure, I received quite a bit of mail. Most of the mail had to do with people being terrified about biting into worms and wanting more guidance/hand holding on the worm subject. I tried my best to get back to all of these people and when I said as much at this orchardist meeting, someone asked me: “Responding to emails takes so much time. Do you think the time spent in correspondence is worth the energy when it comes to selling apples?”

My answer was “Absolutely!” I do believe that consumer awareness can change how and why we grow food and at this point, we should never overestimate the awareness of others about the food they eat. At 31 years old, I’m hoping to have many more years ahead of me and the sooner awareness happens and people start thinking about why they aren’t eating ugly fruit, the healthier our environment becomes. After delivering this answer and soap-box speech, someone in the circle said:

“Fifty more chances… Eliza has fifty more chances to make this happen. That’s why this type of gathering is so important. We’re giving each other more chances.”

At first, that statement hit me hard. It’s true. In 50 years, I’ll be 81 years old and hopefully settling into some sort of apple-derived retirement. In those 50 remaining years,  I have 50 more chances to bring about awareness for cosmetic diseases and maybe see some consumer change during that time. 50 seasons (100 if I travel between New Zealand and the USA every year and avoid all traces of winter) are all I have left…and suddenly, it dawned on me that my time here on this earth is very short. All of those extra years I thought I had, my [dwindling] advantage of youth, has been reduced to only 50 more seasons.

And then I stopped being so self-centered and started to understand what he was actually saying…

Alone, I have 50 more chances. But with the help of others, my chances go up exponentially.  In seeking out collaboration, networking with others, and forming real and lasting relationships with our surroundings and with other humans, we are earning more tries at what we’re trying to accomplish in this life. A season filled with peers and enriching relationships turns into a season with far more potential chances for accomplishing our goals.

There’s so much power in interdependence, yet on the whole, very little positive collaboration seems to be happening in this realm (aside from that annual orchardist meeting I spoke of above).  Why is that? Well, from my personal standpoint, I can tell you that over the past few years, I’ve had ideas, theories and physical work taken (stolen?) from me and projected onto larger platforms without any credit or acknowledgment. One must question why no acknowledgement was given, and to me, the answers are likely found in ego, greed, vanity or self interest/promotion. Instead of working together, instead of reaching out to combine powers in order to achieve a greater good, we as humans often tend to head down a path of selfishness or self-preservaation. It’s alright to take care of ourselves first, it’s basically the survival of the fittest, but we must realize that the stealing of words/ideas/etc without acknowledgement, or some similar action used to get a temporary leg-up in life, could cost you and everyone else some extra chances in achieving a greater good.

The truth is: It does bother me when people take my words and other people’s words and use them as their own without any acknowledgement. Perhaps it’s because I laboriously went through half of my life citing other people’s works in scientific papers to let those grading my homework know where I got this information. Perhaps it’s because I’ve got a big ego. Regardless, I often beat myself up when I get aggravated about this. Why can’t I just put it to rest and do what I love with the end goal being to better this world where I’m currently residing? Why should I care about someone stealing my ideas for their own?

It’s because I deeply (on a cellular level, it seems) care about what I do and want to see this system change for a healthier future. Tied to my ideas are many many other ideas, supportive theories, and people who have helped or inspired me. If people were to give credit, a works cited of sorts,  they would essentially be funneling information seekers (aka- potential innovators) to the source, which can often be the grail for information and resources. In building upon other’s work without acknowledgement, we are hampering true progress and innovation.

“Trust and mutual respect among employees and users are the foundation of our success, and they are something we need to earn every day.” That comes from Google’s code of conduct. They are one of the most powerful and innovative businesses of our time and what are they doing?  They are fostering respectful relationships among their employees in order to bring out the best in each other’s skills. Take note, ag world. Let’s start to collaborate, eh?

Currently, I’m trying to strike a balance between making relationships/collaborating (more chances) and holding my cards close to my chest (no increase in chances). In a sense, I’d like to think the team I’m a member of is something of a Google. I have some wonderful role models in my life who depend on trust and community in order to live a full life, and I’m reaching deep into that resource. In the end, though, it’s a conscious decision of who is surrounding you.  How many chances will I end up with for metering my collaborations? That’s the risk, isn’t it? Given this world we’re in, we’ve got to somehow maintain a balance between competition and working together in order to bring about some effing change.

In any event, I’ve gotten a little off topic from marketing/social media/#eatuglyapples. I don’t care if people start using #eatuglyapples; As a grower, I need that awareness spread in order to increase my chances at changing the food system. We’ve got a long way to go. #Eatuglyapples.

The Dula Beauty, my family apple. Picture pulled from USDA archives.

The Dula Beauty Apple, my family apple. Picture pulled from the USDA archives. I find it amazing that when this picture was painted, there was no need to cover up the cosmetic fungal diseases. That’s what fruit looked like.