U-Pick in New York: Fruits, Vegetables, and Values

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

I love the fall season, my favorite. And October is the best month of all! New Mexico, my home state, is a fall wonderland—but the first few weeks of October find me in upstate New York visiting my daughter and her family, namely my three grandchildren. I must say, adorable by any estimation, a girl age 8 and almost 4-year-old twins, a boy and girl.

Upstate New York is resplendent with vivid fall colors in October—the leaves shimmering in the pale light or quivering in the subtle breeze as they drift down to the moist ground as they see fit or just pause in mid-air to flutter about in the sunshine. Fall emits a subtle feeling that reminds us of what is important. At least, it does to me.

One of the things that my daughter thought was important was a family outing to Smascott Orchards, located in Kinderhook New York, a U-Pick farm where we were able to pick our own apples, pumpkins, and assorted vegetables. Located in Kinderhook, New York, it was not far from an old farmhouse that my daughter and her husband were remodeling.  This outing would be fun, even my cousin from Cooperstown joined us.

The U-Pick orchards transported me pack several decades to the early 1980s. While living in rural, central Illinois, I remember picking strawberries and raspberries by the gallons, freezing them in our chest freezer or making endless pints of jam. I bought apples by the bushel to make applesauce, enough for the full year. Also, I canned enough peaches and pears from local orchards to put up plenty of fruit for family consumption. As I traipsed through Smascott’s apple orchard to the broccoli patch, I recalled growing beets, carrots, cauliflower, beans, and peas in our enormous garden. It was a lot of hard work but also very rewarding to know that what we ate was a product of my hard-physical labor and skill as a gardener.

The U-Pick experience also reminded me of what I had lost in my march to progress and prosperity. Moving from my small town and huge garden to the “big city” of Blooming-Normal, my life changed from an “earth mother” to a “city sophisticate” in a short time. Although I always enjoyed being out “in nature,” I never had such a bountiful garden again. My canning jars sat in the basement, always hopeful that I would renew my passion for gardening so they could be useful again. It didn’t happen.

I have found that our country and I have followed similar paths. As a nation, we once prided ourselves in being self-sufficient, making many of the things that we wear, eat, or enjoy.  From the 1980s onward, I have found that these values changed from self-reliance to dependence: dependent on China for our goods, dependent on the government for subsidies, dependent on outside educators to tell us what to think, and dependent on the material world for meaning and inspiration. Nature got shoved aside in our push to acquire more and more things.

Strolling through the rows of nature’s colorful bounty was a vivid reminder that in our rush to progress and prosperity we left much behind. The was a deep satisfaction of directly connecting with the food we eat, or the warmth and security of being with family and friends, all the while being surrounded by nature at every step.

Perhaps our experience with the shock of COVID-19 to our way of life has shaken us out of our nature-deprived existence and shown us another way of life that is an attractive alternative. Perhaps, picking some of our own fruit and vegetables is just one part of the new equation. Instead of a manufactured way of entertainment, a trip to the u-pick orchard seems heartfelt.

When all this COVID-19 business has hopefully passed, perhaps one of the positive effects will be a re-evaluation of our definition of progress and prosperity. There are many dimensions to this process, but in fact we are not only picking our own fruits and vegetables but perhaps we are picking new values and meaning in our lives. I have found that it is long overdue.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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