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Nature’s Symphony: Composing a Biodiverse Soundtrack for Your CSA

June 26, 2024

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Nature’s Symphony: Composing a Biodiverse Soundtrack for Your CSA

The Cicada Concerto

It seemed like all the cicadas in the world had decided our concert was the perfect place to perform their mating calls. The red-eyed insects clung to the treetops, making an incessant rhythmic-sounding whine. Scores of their shells surrounded our feet, and we attempted not to step on them, fearing the distinct crunching noise would add to the cacophony of sound.

It was 2021, and my youth orchestra tried to make the ongoing global pandemic seem normal by continuing our regularly scheduled programming. Except it would never be normal, and because of social distancing guidelines, we had been relegated to play in the parking lot of our usual performance hall. Adding on to the chaos, just when we came out of our year-long quarantine, the cicadas of Princeton, New Jersey had decided it was the ideal time to crawl out of the ground after 17 years of hiding.

The cicadas’ presence overwhelmed us as we attempted to play the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. A cicada landed on our keyboardist, and she promptly screamed, pushed her keyboard over, and had to be escorted off the stage in tears. Her teacher, who was in the audience, took on her role while we hesitantly played the rest of the piece. If you ask any of my fellow orchestra members their memory of the concert on June 13, 2021, most would probably say, “There were way too many cicadas.”

Writing this now, the irony is not lost on me. Here we were, playing the Four Seasons, a piece of music that attempted to capture the beauty of nature, while simultaneously being annoyed by what nature had done. In my junior year, I enrolled in an environmental science class offered by my school. In these lessons, the topic of noise pollution stuck out to me. Stereos, lawnmowers, and particularly loud rock concerts all exceed a certain decibel level and adversely affect human health.

Nature’s Rhythm

Beyond these more obvious examples, this class introduced me to the effects of noise on wildlife. Sound is a significant part of the animal kingdom, as it is used to attract mates, navigate areas through echolocation, and avoid predators. Loud human-made noises disrupt terrestrial and aquatic animals’ ability to survive.

With all this in mind, I’m left with a different perspective regarding The Great Cicada Emergence of 2021. Was it possible that humans were the more intrusive presence in the grand scheme of things? Our music may be beautiful to our ears, but it might just be disruptive to the cicadas. And weren’t we the ones who paved over all of the cicadas’ natural habitat and left them with so few trees left to use? If you think of it that way, humans were responsible for forcing the cicadas to find their mates using trees in a random parking lot.

There’s this notion that nature’s value solely lies in its utility to humans or in its beauty for us to admire. When it doesn’t satisfy either of those requirements, humans begin to complain and despise it. However, despite our cognitive complexities and technological advancements, were we really so fundamentally different from the cicadas? We were both just living organisms trying to survive within the confines of our environment. Our parallels become even more apparent the more I think about it. We were both making what we considered music after being in isolation for an extended period of time.

Perhaps we as humans are not as disconnected from the natural world as we like to think. The cicadas continue to follow me. I have moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts, and in the summer of 2025, cicadas are expected to engulf New England. I can’t say I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the cicadas’ mating calls. That would be a lie. What I can say is that I think it’s a fallacy to believe nature’s value only exists in relation to humans.

Valuing Nature’s Contribution

Their mating calls are valuable to them, and my orchestral music is valuable to me. Thoreau says, “We too are out obeying the same law with all nature,” and I agree. Every organism has a different role in the ecosystem, and it’s important that we cherish each and every one. I perceive that more or other things are seen in the reflection than in the substance.

As I contemplate the complexity of our relationship with nature, I’m reminded of an experience I had while working at a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. The rhythmic buzzing of pollinators, the rustling of leaves, and the symphony of birdsong created a biodiverse soundtrack that wove together the fabric of our little urban oasis.

Thornapple CSA, like many community-supported agriculture programs, is dedicated to cultivating a diverse array of plants, nurturing the delicate balance of ecosystems, and providing our members with a bountiful harvest of fresh, locally-grown produce. By embracing a holistic approach to agriculture, we not only nourish our bodies but also our connection to the natural world.

Composing a Biodiverse Soundscape

As I step into the fields, I’m struck by the intricate dance of life unfolding before me. Beneficial insects dart among the flowers, pollinating our crops and keeping pests at bay. Songbirds flit from branch to branch, their melodic calls punctuating the air. The rustling of leaves and the gentle hum of the breeze create a soothing natural symphony that envelops the senses.

Imani Laird’s essay on the cicada invasion resonates with me, as she grapples with the idea that perhaps we, as humans, are the more disruptive presence in the natural world. She recognizes the inherent value in the cicadas’ mating calls, even if they don’t align with our own aesthetic preferences.

Similarly, at Thornapple CSA, we strive to cultivate a diverse ecosystem that supports a wide range of organisms, each playing a vital role in the overall health and resilience of our farm. From the towering sunflowers that attract pollinators to the dense plantings of herbs and flowers that provide habitat for beneficial insects, every element of our farm is carefully considered to create a thriving, biodiverse landscape.

Celebrating Nature’s Abundance

As our members arrive each week to pick up their shares, they are greeted by this vibrant tapestry of life. They delight in the rainbow of hues, the varied textures, and the intoxicating aromas that fill the air. It’s a sensory experience that transcends the simple transaction of food exchange, inviting our community to pause, observe, and immerse themselves in the rhythms of the natural world.

The Backyard Bouquet Podcast has featured countless stories of flower farmers and gardeners who have found solace, inspiration, and a deep connection to the land through their work. Like these passionate growers, we at Thornapple CSA believe that by fostering biodiversity, we not only nourish our bodies but also our souls.

Our members eagerly anticipate the arrival of each new crop, celebrating the changing seasons and the abundance that each brings. Whether it’s the delicate spring greens, the vibrant summer tomatoes, or the hearty fall roots, every item in their share represents a unique symphony of life, carefully composed through our regenerative farming practices.

Cultivating Connections

In a world that often feels disconnected and fast-paced, our CSA provides a refuge where members can slow down, engage with the land, and rediscover their place within the natural cycles of the Earth. As they handle the fresh produce, they are reminded of the labor, the care, and the wonder that went into its creation.

Casey O’Leary’s reflections on the challenges and joys of small-scale farming resonate deeply with us. She eloquently captures the bittersweet reality of being a steward of the land, constantly balancing the demands of the natural world with the realities of our industrialized food system.

At Thornapple CSA, we strive to create a space where our members can reconnect with the origin of their food, forge meaningful relationships with the land and its caretakers, and find solace in the ebb and flow of the seasons. By celebrating the biodiversity that thrives on our farm, we invite our community to become active participants in the symphony of nature, composing a healthier, more sustainable future together.

So as you open your CSA box each week, take a moment to appreciate the intricate web of life that has come together to nourish you. Savor the flavors, marvel at the colors, and listen to the rhythmic hum of the pollinators as they dance among the blooms. For in this humble bounty, you’ll find the symphony of nature, a harmonious composition that sustains us all.

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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