Monday, October 22, 2012

Orchard Planting Recap

By: Jacqueline Boulden and Nina Berryman
Last Wednesday 50 blueberries, 50 blackberries, 15 cherry trees, 15 plum trees and 15 Asian pear trees were carefully and loving planted behind the base ball field at Saul.
The  three-year plan for the orchard includes a wish list of future plantings of strawberries, figs, hazelnut and pawpaw, a fruit native to North America.
Ten volunteers and about 120 Saul students shoveled dirt, sprinkled peat, planted the trees and bushes in the ground, surrounded the plantings with protective wire mesh and poured bucketfuls of water to give them a start.
“Helping plant these blueberry bushes in the orchard gives me a better understanding of Saul, that it’s hands-on learning,” said freshman Austin Dennison. “It’s a good achievement to help do this and get paid back in berries.” Fellow freshman Lorenzo Velazquez agreed. “I love working with plants. That’s why I came here and I want to see the outcome of this.” 
Senior Nathan Newman will not be here to see the orchard fully mature because he is graduating next year but “four to five years from now I’ll be happy to come back and see the growth in the orchard.”
Lisa Mosca, from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), co-wrote the grant that made the first plantings possible. “It’s wonderful to see this,” said Lisa “We’ve been waiting for this day for 10-months and I can’t wait to come back and see what it’s like in 10-years.”
Eight of the hard-working volunteers were from publishing company Elsevier, which gives each employee two days a year with pay to do volunteer work. Amanda Minutola, a content specialist at Elsevier, said her volunteer days used to be spent in soup kitchens but this year she wanted to do something with high school students and something outdoors. “Planting the orchard is definitely more labor intensive than the soup kitchen,” she said. “It’s hard work and it’s just great to see something that you do that will last several years.”
“This is a big deal,” said Jessica McAtamney as the planting neared completion late in the afternoon. Jessica teaches Urban Gardening and AP Environmental Science at Saul and was instrumental in establishing the CSA Henry Got Crops! program. “The field wasn’t being used for anything purposeful and now we have something that will engage kids, somewhere outside of the classroom they can learn hands-on.”
“Many kids don’t really have a sense about the variety of produce, they have never seen so many different plants,” echoed Clare Hyre, Education Coordinator for Weavers Way Community Programs. “The Orchard specifically is adding another layer to increasing the students’ knowledge about farming and the food they eat, where that food comes from.”
The new orchard is just a beginning, for the trees and for many of the students. As the students tend to the orchard and produce farm and increase their knowledge about fresh organic foods, they will watch the efforts of their work grow and it is hoped, they will plant the seeds of knowledge in other places, including their own back yards.
To paraphrase a well-known quote: give students some fruits and vegetables and they will eat for a day; teach them how to grow their own and they will eat for a lifetime.

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