Grafters X Change

Members of the community work with the Environmental Performance Agency to chisel out a piece of asphalt. They hope to reclaim the natural land and allow for growth again.

Over the course of two days, March 29 and 30, the Grafters X Change: Branches and Networks event took place at the Paul J. Schupf Studio Arts Center in Hamilton. This event was organized by Margaretha Haughwout, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History at Colgate. The two-day environmental workshop worked in collaboration with the Guerilla Grafters group and the Environmental Performance Agency, as well as other New York gardening groups and artists.

The Schupf Studio Arts center is a purple building just a short walk from Hamilton’s downtown. It sits on the corner of the Montgomery and Eaton street and shares a parking lot with an auto body shop.

Inside the studio, there were classrooms with different speakers sharing their experience of making gardens in urban areas, creating local farmers’ markets and other environmental efforts.

A major component of the event was introducing students and members of Colgate’s community to grafting, a process by which a fruit bearing tree branch is grafted onto a tree which is not bearing fruit. The result is a tree which grows fruit that had not before. This technique has been used in agriculture for years; recently, however, the Guerilla Grafters have taken the technique to urban areas.

The Guerilla Grafters group, founded in 2010, is encouraging the growth of an online community of grafters all over the world. This community is responsible for grafting fruit cuttings onto trees lining city streets in hopes that one day, pedestrians can pluck fruit from their branches as they pass. Senior Grant Holloschutz was impressed with the idea.

The process of grafting was quite intriguing. It’s truly incredible how someone can just attach a totally different plant to a tree in order to grow fruit,” Holloschutz said.

The garage of the studio arts center was taken over by the scion and seed exchange. The exchange allowed community members to donate their fruit tree scions so others could take the branches and graft them onto their own trees. The garage was also full of warm soup and plenty of people eager to talk about their experiences with grafting and the environment.

In a different area, attendees were able to learn how to reclaim nature paved over by parking lots. The Environmental Performance Agency is a group founded in response to the ongoing dismantling of the US Environmental Protection Agency and they are committed to reconnecting people with nature. In their asphalt cut-out demonstration, two EPA agents, Andrea Haenggi and Ellie Irons, chiseled a hexagon shaped hole out of the asphalt in order to reclaim the earth beneath. Each stage of the process involved deep contemplation over the land and its multi-species inhabitants.

The workshop had an extremely diverse crowd who were open to conversation. For students who had never heard of grafting before and attendees who have practiced it, the workshop was full of useful information. If your interested in grafting you can check Guerilla Grafters website which has a map of locations all over the world where trees have been marked as good spots for grafting.

Contact JP Haley at jhaley@colgate.edu.

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