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From the Forum Moderator:

The Holistic Orchard Network Online Community WILL go on. It will go on because members in the community have stepped up recently. There are those of you who posted your appreciation. There are those that sent financial support. There are those who have stepped up to take on the work that keeps this thing going. Truth be told Michael was finding it unclear if the HON forum was a success, as support waned, and post activity waned more. But then a group of you stepped up and gave him some renewed hope. And so here we are. 

This will be a good point to introduce myself to those who don’t know me. I am Todd Parlo, an orchard owner and nurseryman in northern VT (an hour west of Lost Nation Orchard). I first met Michael Phillips at a little workshop, if memory serves, about 20 years ago. We were always (well almost always) on the same page with growing philosophy. I grew to know him more, frankly, through emails, calls and forum banter than in person. We had great times in the long car pools to the Berkshire roundtable over the years. This past year a small group of us apple weirdos were just beginning to do apple tours and put together a VT/NH apple group when one of us left the earthly domain. It was my privilege that the two days we would spend in orchards were mine at Walden Heights, and Michael’s at Lost Nation. 

I have been involved in horticulture in some fashion for about 30 years. I spent most of my childhood in the fruit belt of the NY finger lakes, went off to school, and then finally settled in what is accurately described as the “arctic finger” in northeast Vermont. It was here, 25 years ago that we began our farm. Dubbed Walden Heights Nursery and Orchard, our family grows around 600 varieties of fruit trees, berries, vines and other assorted nonsense. We are also a traditional propagation nursery, reproducing and growing nearly all the plants we sell. We are certified organic for all crops. The farm’s main crop is apples, with an emphasis on material for hard cider production. The main nursery crop is apple trees. The true mission of Walden Heights, however, is education. This probably stems from my opinionated nature, but also because my first degree was in education (grade school). This also makes a good knit with the HON forum. I currently run horticulture classes, do consulting, some periodic public speaking and otherwise try to brainwash folks into being good stewards of the earth. A good number of you will find this familiar as this seems to be a more common, and good model of building a good farm business. Grow food, make plants, teach people. And a little cider to warm the cockles.

For my part: to simply attempt to preserve the original vibe of Michael’s vision…a place where novice orchardists, professionals, consultants, nurseryfolk, cidermakers and the rest of you lot can share ideas and experiences in hopes of benefitting our collective landscapes. This is an entity whose form is almost entirely dictated by the membership, that being exactly YOU. My job as I see it is to keep focus on holistic growing, press for maturity and quality in posts, and to help the forum become more robust in the future…to grow. In a nutshell that means keep things running smoothly. I will also be cajoling members to chime in with posts and contribute financially when they can. 

To honor Michael’s legacy the conversation should follow the central tenets of holistic growing. Now, we all have our opinions of what that means- in fact its champion was probably the only one who really knew what that word meant. We can make our assumptions. In fact, the collective conversation that this forum has created is as good a description as any for what holistic growing is. The body creates the vision. We can also deviate, challenge and defend the current thinking. Learning is how we grow. Of course, we need routine discourse for this to occur. No one should ever feel shy about voicing their opinions. Ultimately the forum is a collective. It is now, as it was when Michael was at the helm. 

The way forward is to make this forum robust, active, insightful and impressive. This can grow to be a true think tank of motivated growers. It can be a vehicle to help the world grow their food in a more healthy, sustainable and responsible fashion. 

The collective effort:

  • My contribution will be as forum moderator. This will mean keeping the content part of the site running smoothly. This will be all the little things Michael Phillips had done behind the scenes that made sure things looked professional and logical. I will be messaging members as needed. I will also be nagging folks to contribute a post or two. I will encourage financial support when you can. I will take offers of help in making this a better site. I am happy to respond to private messages if you want to discuss something with me, offer ideas, or otherwise want to be heard but in private.

  • Michael Potts continues to do all things IT. The bones of the organization. Also a grand force in keeping the Michael Phillips mission alive.

  • A growing team of stand up folks who are giving effort to keep things alive. Among them Brian Caldwell, Brittany Kordick, Liz Griffith, and Michael Potts who snapped together the latest Community Orchardist. (Please read it’s a good one). Also Michael Biltonen, Alan Surprenant, Eliza Greenman,  and Chris Negronida for helping continue unfinished work. There are others I am forgetting to mention, including those of you who are consistent contributors to discussions and those who donate financially to the cause.

  • Nancy and Grace who have voiced their support and given freedom to continue this group.

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6 April 2022