The Far Orchard

Connecting living systems, food and community

The Far Orchard is a long-term arts project developed in collaboration with the Barn arts centre in Banchory that connects living systems, food and community. The project is a rethinking of the traditional apple orchard where all trees grow together on a single area of land. Instead, The Far Orchard creates an orchard that is distributed across Banchory with individual trees being offered a home in private gardens, schools, care homes and other places such as allotments. Each tree is cared for by its host and together the trees form a network that is connected by pollinating insects.

The Far Orchard is as much about creating, connecting and nurturing a community as it is about apple trees and as the trees grow; knowledge, growing tips, harvests, celebrations and friendships will develop and will be shared between The Far Orchard community, the Barn and the wider community of Banchory. At key points of the year such as harvest time, creative activities and events will take place where The Far Orchard community and the wider public will join in sharing, learning, creative celebration and exploring different aspects of our relationship with the natural world.

Around 100 new apple trees were planted in April 2022 at the community planting day.

All information is on The Far Orchard website

Creative Carbon Scotland have included a case study on The Far Orchard in their Library of Creative Sustainability. You can read it HERE

The Far Orchard subtly highlights and echoes the informal networks of care and kindness that have grown up around us and thrived during the last two years. It is a live project that continues to explore how important and life affirming these connections have been, creating a space to think more deeply about how they may be developed and extended, nurtured and made sustainable into the future.

It is a project that is the antithesis of the ‘attention’ economy with its offer of instant gratification and which requires patience and care. It asks us to imagine into the future and hold an idea in common that matures over years; a project that requires patience before ‘bearing fruit’.

All the partners in the project will develop a deeper understanding of and connection to other living systems that they live within. The flowering of the apple trees and the behaviour of pollinating insects are key to successful harvests as apple trees rely on insects for pollination and do not produce fruit well on their own. Each tree needs a pollination partner for optimum production and The Orchard will therefore be planned and planted to ensure that each tree is able to connect via pollinators.

People and organisations have applied to ‘host’ a tree and as part of the project we will map the location of the hosts and also the apple trees that are already growing in other gardens and public spaces so that these trees can become part of the orchard.

The Far Orchard will be created using the patterns of pollinating insects, prevailing winds and the locations of existing apple trees. The insect pollinators, and their journeys between the trees will be part of the conversation of the orchard from the very beginning – bringing these vital processes into a new and sharper focus and offering a vision of a town that is more connected to and aware of the importance of its more than human inhabitants. Offering to host a tree from The Far Orchard will bring people into a closer observation, engagement and understanding of the dynamic relationships, conditions and cycles between species and seasons, growth and harvest that need to exist for continuing thriving and sustainability. Nothing thrives in isolation – it is these networks of care and connection to living systems that create the right conditions.

The Far Orchard intends to become a tangible community asset and well as a metaphor for the importance of networks of connection; an orchard of single trees, cared for and connected by a human and more than human community.

Below: Images from the Planting Day at the Barn. 24th April 2022

Plenty? A Festival of More and Less

The Plenty? event took place at the Barn on 22/23rd October 2022. As well as being a traditional harvest festival with apple pressing and juicing, the event explored ideas around how we can work together to live with less to keep planetary ecosystems healthy and sustainable into the future. There was music, film, installation, participatory activities, exhibitions, workshops and talks exploring these themes.

We were there with The Far Orchard Zone, talking about the project and exploring how we might create new networks of care with an ecological focus.

Below: images from The Far Orchard Zone at Plenty?

Image top left: Grant Anderson. All other images: Jo Hodges

Below: Apple pressing at the Plenty? event

Images : Grant Anderson

Categories: 2022, Collaboration, Community Engagement, Environmental, Food, Ongoing, Participatory, Process, Site Specific

Jo Hodges

Jo Hodges is a multidisciplinary public artist based in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
with a background in Human Ecology, community development and social justice.

Her work investigates ecological and socio-cultural systems, processes and relationships, and explores new strategies for working in public. Her practice takes many forms; temporary and permanent works, site specific installations and socially engaged projects and processes. She is often led by context, where the outcome is determined as a result of process.

She is interested in research, experimentation and collaboration at the intersection of environment, culture and technology and exploring the role of art in social change. She is joint Director-Curator of Sanctuary Lab, a public art laboratory in the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park.