Last weekend we planted 177 fruit trees across the entire school district (which is about 50 miles wide) at the home of every elementary age kid in the school. For me it was a fun and interesting adventure.
My back of the envelope calculations are that those trees, at maturity, would provide enough food to feed the entire school district population for 4-5 days. Now that's a step towards community food security. What's more, it gives those kids access to healthy, local foods right out their back doors.
There are so many lessons we learned doing this project that I'm going to have to write them all down in a paper. But we couldn't have done this without the support of the Foodshelf, school board, Mr. Dreke (3rd grade teacher extraordinaire), the Community Service Club (farmers who left the field to plant other children's trees), Lou's Greenhouse in Big Stone City, SD, my husband, and Megan the student supported by the U's Community Assistance Program.
I want to say a few words about Megan the U of MN horticulture student who has an intuitive way with these trees- you have to see this woman pruning a few dozen trees to appreciate her skill and confidence with fruit trees. She whips out her pruners, hanging from her belt, and moves around the tree like Edwards Scissorhands (a dated reference from my youth). Megan's work with these trees brought to mind the book about scientist Barbara McClintock "A Feeling for the Organism." McClintock's discoveries in molecular biology were 30 years ahead of the times and she credits them to the intuitive sense she gained over years of working/being with corn.
Our traveling the county showed me the need for a home-scale horticulturalist to teach people to care for trees. People would grab Megan by the arm and take her to see their fruit trees and ask her to guide them in pruning. Next year (to which Mike quickly adds "there is no Next Year!") we will combine the fruit tree planting with some kind of tree care/pruning/maybe fruit preservation session.
Small enough to care about. Small enough to make a difference. What a great weekend.