I first met Akiva almost 15 years ago when he was working for Primitive pursuits in Ithaca, NY. I was curious about what Primitive Pursuits was, so I tagged along one snowy winter day when Akiva took my son and a dozen other children into the snow-covered woods. Although it was cold and wet, Akiva cultivated a sense of wonder and play. There were games they played and then everyone got together to make a fire out of wet wood without matches or a lighter. I was impressed both with his energy, the way he projected himself and the way he felt at home in the forest.
15 years later I was falling into a pretty deep depression. My wife sent me these 4 videos of Akiva talking about chestnut trees. These videos literally changed my life. I decided at that moment that I was going to plant out my entire 42 acres with trees that produce food. As the year progressed I settled on 10,000 trees to plant in 1 year’s time without a tractor because it seemed like a nice round number that was completely insane and seemed totally unachievable. After 8 months of hard labor, I am on track to accomplishing that goal. It’s unlikely that I would have ever undertaken this project without the inspiration that Akiva has shared with me.
Akiva’s book Trees of Power is split into two parts, the first part focuses on concepts and skills that any budding tree farmer will need to know. I spent hundreds of hours online and reading books learning what is carefully outlined in just 100 pages of Akiva’s eloquent writing. Not only is it enjoyable to read his thoughts, but you also find yourself quickly identifying with him on almost every point. Akiva approaches tree farming in a very pragmatic way and realizes that people want to figure out how they can use trees to make a living. People want to work, it’s what our bodies are designed to do, but many of us are stuck at jobs that we hate sitting in front of a computer all day. This book gives us options and allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The world is full of problems, Trees of Power is full of solutions.
In the second half of the book, Akiva talks about 10 of his favorite Arborial Allies as if he was reminiscing about an old friend. It’s hard to read his writing and not feel a sense of wonder at many of the trees that have been completely overlooked by the mainstream. I find it incredible that parks and cities are not lined with trees that produce constant food. Our propensity to avoid ‘messy’ food trees has caused us to miss out on an incredible opportunity in urban planning. I feel that this oversight is one of the greatest tragedies of our time.
My own path towards sustainability has been a deep dark descent into my own soul. It meant looking in a mirror every day and confronting how I was contributing to the destruction of this world that I held so dear. Akiva’s approach allows us to realize that the solution to our environmental damages is not to commit suicide, but rather a life dedicated to trying to do good. To expend as much effort as we can to heal the earth.
There is nothing I can ever do or say that will allow Akiva to truly feel how much gratitude that I feel towards him, the most I can do is to dedicate my life to trying to inspire others to do more of the same.