Apple Fest: A tribute to our past, a connection to the land

Applefest 2019 poster.
Applefest 2019 poster.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” – Aldo Leopold

When I was a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, I did some historical digging to create the first fall event for the BIA. I knew this could be more than a generic harvest fair and that meant it needed to be authentic, locally specific and connect our community to the very roots of our Leaside past.

Events bring visual excitement and economic benefits to a community and a meaningful festival can do so much more. It can celebrate our unique heritage and be the glue that binds us and the land together as one community.                           

Thanks to the Lea family farms on the east and the Lawrence family farms on the west, the abundance of apple orchards that once graced both sides of Bayview was definitely  authentic, specifically local and naturally worthy of a celebration. That’s what Apple Fest is all about.

I know that my own backyard was once a part of the original orchards (there’s a good chance that yours was too) and knowing this makes me look at this piece of land differently.                                                            

Every time I dig into my gardens, I feel that I’m entering into the original soil that once helped nourish the apple trees of the old farm.  I think about how those apples provided a livelihood for our early settlers and gave them a nutritious food source that helped feed so many, including their animals through the long winter months. Then of course, there was the wonderful ciders that were much safer to drink than the untreated water.                  

All of that could be enough to pay homage to our rich apple history but there’s still more. It was a few lines in Jane Pitfield’s book ‘LEASIDE’ that takes our apple past to another level.                                                             

She wrote, “John Lea was a successful farmer. In time he bought cows and kept a dairy as well as planting an orchard of Northern Spy apples.”                    

Northern Spy apples?  That’s a reason on its own for Leasiders to celebrate Apple Fest.  Because if you know anything about apple pies, then you also know that the Northern Spy is the King of apples for baking. In fact, this variety was once called the King apple as well as the Apple Pie apple for that very reason.                               

I can’t help but wonder. Why isn’t this common knowledge with Leasiders?  Shouldn’t we have a classic Leaside Northern Spy pie by now?                            

But great apple pies and ciders are only two of the many attributes of the Northern Spy. For the Leas, the reason they embraced this variety early was much more practical as it was suited to the land.  This apple was late to flower which put it out of risk during late spring frosts and because it flowered late, it produced fruit later too (into October) which also stored well throughout the winter. Yes, this was a perfect apple for northern apple growers like the Leas and they embraced it well before it became popular.                                                 

But you don’t need to be an agricultural farmer or a gardener like me to understand why land is the important part of our community and why our relationship with it matters even more.  If you eat food, drink water and breathe air, it should be obvious – and yet that connection is still missing for so many.                                            

Last year’s Apple Fest was a tremendous disappointment for me as only a handful of Bayview merchants stepped up to embrace this important community event.  Some said that they were too busy to participate, a few said that they didn’t know anything about it and others said that apples have nothing to do with their business. What kind of community spirit is that?

Meanwhile, the Pixies worked tirelessly as they did for three Apple Fests prior, transforming every tree on Bayview into apple trees, hand painting Apple Fest signs and adorning the busker stations with hay bales and corn stalks.                

But it was the buskers that performed in the chilling winds until their fingers blistered that moved me the most. With a joyful eloquence, I heard them explaining to the shoppers on the street, what OUR Apple Fest was all about.                          

On October 5th the Bayview Leaside BIA will host the 4th annual Apple Fest celebration and even though I’m no longer on the board, I will be looking forward to it with open arms. I hope you will too and that this year, more merchants of Bayview will rise to the occasion and show some community spirit.           

Here’s to Apple Fest!

For a link to my own apple pie recipe see here.

About Debora Kuchme 29 Articles
After a 30-year career as a fashion designer, Debora worked at Horticultural Design for over a decade. Now with her concerns about climate change, she hopes to help local gardeners find positive solutions for a greener and healthier neighbourhood. As a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, she created the Bayview Pixies, a volunteer group introducing sustainable gardening practice to Bayview.