Friday, February 25, 2011

It all starts with a little trimming...

One of the jobs we have on the farm this time of year is tree-trimming, a laborious task involving a three-wheeled machine called a Brownie with what is basically a 25 pound hydraulic powered chain saw attached to it. You see, you ride up in the air in a little bucket, kinda like the power guys, and swing this saw around like a powered machete, removing errant limbs (hopefully only on the tree). It is a boring, cold, tiresome job; I can honestly say I can think of well over 100 things I’d rather do then trim trees; however, it’s one of the most important jobs on the farm. A well-trimmed tree produces better fruit, with better size, and less pressure from insects and fungus. It’s truly an investment you make for future years; the better job you do trimming, the better quality fruit you’ll likely produce.

Right now, we’re watching a lot of “fiscal tree-trimming” happen all over the United States, and Michigan is no exception. Governor Rick Snyder has climbed aboard his metaphorical “brownie”, and as we say when we need to do some hard trimming in a neglected orchard, he’s doing some major lumber-jacking. No tree is safe from Snyder’s saw, nor should any be; you see, for far too long our state legislature has worked off borrowed time; they’ve been growing some pretty lousy fruit, and the markets have changed. Consumers (and voters) are demanding fresh, high quality fruit, and they’ve hired a new farm manager to make that happen. Eventually, just like at home, the governor will replant the orchard with new trees that won’t need trimming for quite some time. But, for the meantime, stand back, cause the limbs are flying!!

Everything in the world has a day of reckoning; and just like my back and shoulders after a long day trimming in the orchard, the governor is sure to go home with a few wounds and some soar muscles. But as an old farmer once told me, when you trim trees the hardest, that’s when you get the most new growth.

Jeff Vander Werff is a 4th generation farmer and blogger from Sparta, Michigan. Learn more about his family's farm at