Being a work-study student in the 1980’s meant carrying a full class load of 16-18 credit hours and working 20 hours weekly for the university being attended. I was awarded this form of financial aid for two years as an undergraduate at
before the Reagan Administration ended the program. Michigan State University
Luckily the jobs I held were with the Botany Department. In the summer this included working the research arbors and orchards. I loved the opportunity to ride into the countryside on my knobby-tire ten-speed bike. With tools, water and lunch securely tied in the rear wire-baskets, and a straw hat slapping my back, I would ride along farm lanes and down dirt roads that led to the fields.
One early summer day I was chased down a hilly dirt path by a momma woodchuck. I had inadvertently ridden between her and her cubs. She charged, my legs shot up and out, and I screamed like a little girl. The bike sped down the bumpy slope with pedals spinning furiously. Amazingly, momma kept up for half the distance! When I finally came to a stop at the bottom, I laughed and cried from the exhilaration and fear.
The orchards of apples and vineyards of grapes were experimental pollen crosses. Once the fruit was collected for research in early autumn, what was left was free for the taking, and so I took. There was a palm-sized apple that I loved best; coral colored, firm, sweet and when I bit into it, the juice ran down my arm like an overripe peach. It was considered a failure because within 48 hours of harvesting it turned soft and flavorless. I would pick and eat a couple of these apples as I worked, tuck a few in a bag for later that night, and repeat the process the next day until they were gone. I was forever after ruined for grocery store apples.
There were days that a graduate student and I would be out in the fields with the professor who was a consummate teacher. He would prattle on about growing trees and vines all the while we were working. I learned more about plants and soils from his casual conversations than I did in any of my classes. One of the lessons was about how a plant absorbs the flavor of the soil in which it grows.
Certain plants demonstrate this trait more than others. The taste of garlic, onions and grapes are affected by soil composition, especially grapes. Viticulture, the growing of grape vines, is considered a fine art that includes not only pruning, but also the location of the vineyard. Proper soil and land preparation are the keys to successful vine production and the first step toward obtaining good fruit.
If you are “into” wines, you are aware of how region, rainfall and horticultural practices all affect the taste. Soils vary by region. What is found in
California or France is different than that of Michigan or Australia’s . The soils are all suitable to fulfill the needs of the vine, yet each region will produce distinct differences in flavor. Hunter Valley
There are similarities here to our fruitfulness, faith, and how we live and grow. God has placed us in different regions and we develop our roots of faith within that “soil.” Those of us growing up in rural areas working cattle or fields of wheat will express faith differently than someone from
New York or . We nurture our faith through different people and experiences which adds flavor to our expression of belief. Whether we grow up surrounded by reinforced concrete or open range, God’s fruit is still sweet and distinctly our own. Melbourne