Apples and Seeds

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned as a Cultural Economist I learned from the American legend, Johnny Appleseed. He helped me understand the economic principle of "leverage." Born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774, as John Chapman, he was raised on a small farm and his favorite place in the whole world was his father's apple orchard.

When traveling settlers would pass by he would ask questions about the fertile lands of the frontiers of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Those curious conversations spawned the inspired dream of one day planting apple seeds throughout the new frontier. By 1792, when he was 18, he headed west.

Johnny Appleseed received all the apple seeds he desired free of charge from the cider mills. Contrary to the popular image of him spreading apple seeds randomly, everywhere he went he preformed, rather, as an intuitive entrepreneur. He extensively planted nurseries of apple tree seedlings, built fences around them to protect them from the animals, and partnered with a "local" to care for the investment. The partner would sell the trees and keep part of the proceeds for himself. Johnny would return every year to tend the nursery and collect his share. The partners were encouraged to sell the trees on easy credit and even be generous in accepting items of barter in exchange. Additionally, he directed the new tree owners to cider mills where they could sell their newly-grown produce for cash. He became a very popular and loved man.

It was from the power of story about Johnny Appleseed that I learned the concept thatyou can count the seeds in an apple, but you can never count the apples in a seed! The power of multiplication through leverage is astounding. And you can never really quantify the true potential for growth by simply measuring what you hold in your hand today. As you place those seeds in the rich, fertile ground of your new frontiers, the silent miracle of multiplication takes place. Soon you will have seeds from many, many apples growing in the autumn sunlight waiting for you to harvest the plentiful crop. Then, once more those multiplied numbers of seeds can again be replanted with the exciting expectation of an exponential harvest.

I was walking the other day through the aisle-ways of one of our eleven Project C.U.R.E. warehouses here in the U.S. The pallet loads of neatly wrapped and inventoried medical supplies and pieces of medical equipment were stacked on three levels of steel warehouse racking. There was no less than 25 million dollars worth of precious medical inventory in that 75,000 square foot warehouse ready to be loaded on ocean-going cargo containers to be shipped to the most needy and hurting people in the world. I started chuckling aloud to myself.

"I have a way," I said to myself, "to count and value the inventory of this warehouse today. But only God can calculate the leveraged and multiplied effect these donated medical goods will have on the economies of the poor, recipient countries. When the broken and diseased citizens become healthy contributors to their gross national production, economic miracles can take place. It takes healthy people to have healthy economies. These millions of dollars could turn into billions of dollars of value to those developing countries!"

Fifty years after Johnny Appleseed was dead and gone, apple trees and orchards graced the landscape of those frontier communities. No one has ever tried to calculate the economic and cultural impact of his efforts, because, "You can count the number of seeds in an apple ... but you can never count the number of apples in a seed."