Monday, March 5, 2007

Urban Farming Collaboration (2007)

Interview with Joyce Lapinsky, LA project manager for Urban Farming during the 2007 Fruit Tree Tour planting at Washington Elementary in Compton.

One of the most potent effects of Common Vision’s work on Fruit Tree Tour is the collaborations with local and national organizations with varied foci from urban nutrition to global warming to sustainable farming to arts and ceremony. This collaboration highlight is Urban Farming’s mission is to eradicate hunger while increasing diversity, motivating youth and seniors, and optimizing the production of food on unused urban land.

Urban Farming founder and Executive Director, Taja Sevelle and Common Vision Education Director Michael Flynn have been in contact for the past 2 years, developing a strategy for working together to make real change towards their shared vision. In 2007, Urban Farming provided a scholarship for a Compton school, Washington Elementary, to participate in the Fruit Tree Tour Program free of charge. As part of the Coalition to Eradicate Hunger, Washington Elementary has agreed to give 10% of their harvest to a local food bank.

While 99% of the students at Washington are on free or reduced lunch, Principal Ontrece Ellerbe agreed that the opportunity for the students to experience giving to their larger community would be indispensable. Urban Farming and Common Vision both view this as the humble beginnings to a long relationship of planting orchards together in Los Angeles.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Six tree care ideas

Here are six projects to improve the health of your trees and continue your students’ relationships with earth stewardship and environmental education!

1. Mulch

Spread Mulch at the base of your new tree- up to 3 feet circumference around the trunk- to keep moisture in and weeds out. Remember to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to avoid rot.

2. Water (of course)

There’s much to learn watching living things grow and even more to learn by helping them along their way. A great lesson on teamwork, responsibility, science and more, keep the students involved in watering the trees. Be careful not to over or underwater 5 gallons a week per tree is a good general recommendation. As the trees grow in their third year and beyond, remember that the “feeder” roots are mostly under the drip line (the outermost tips of the branches) not just under the trunk.

3. Trunk covers

Help keep squirrels, rodents, lawnmowers and weed-wackers away from the young trunk by making cardboard cases around the trunks. Quart-sized milk cartons work well.

4. Cover the graft with paint

Your freshly planted tree may take a while to adapt to its new home and position to the sun. You can help it by taking some stress off of its most sensitive area, around its graft point. To avoid damaging sunburn on the lower trunk and graft, paint a mixture of ½ water, ½ white latex paint on the trunk and graft of your sapling.

5. Remove any weeds from around the base of the tree.

The three-foot basin of mulch around your tree should keep most grass or weeds from coming up and competing with the growing roots of the new tree. Keep the weed wacker in the tool shed and have your students get their hands close to the ground pulling weeds and taking care of their trees.

6. Staking

To reduce effects of wind and stress stake your tree to support straight and balanced growth. For best results stake from both sides and use only ties that gently cradle the tree, not cutting or rubbing against the bark. See illustration on our tree care web page.

Keep LA Beautiful

The city of Los Angeles invited Common Vision as the opening act of city's Keep Los Angeles Beautiful Campaign, thanks to Common Vision's work with the mayor's Million Trees LA project. The performance included drumming, dancing, and eco- hip hop. Senator Hillary Clinton, who was among the speakers at the event, expressed her enthusiasm for Common Vision’s tree planting projects.

Grafting 101

While each seed in an apple core will grow into a fruiting apple tree given the right conditions, only very rarely will the tree produce large and sweet (or even palatable) fruit like the apple from which the seed came. The only way to ensure the quality and character of the fruit is to cut a branch off a tree with the quality of fruit that you desire. This little branch (or scion) has several nodes out of which future branches and buds may grow.

All the little branch needs to grow an entire tree out of one of these little nodes is a steady flow of sap. Grafting is the art of attaching the sap flowing (or cambium) layer of the little branch to the sap flowing (or cambium) layer of a tree with roots. With a few careful cuts and some tape the little branch of the desired fruit variety becomes one tree with its new roots and grows into a full sized tree. Grafting is the method used for the propagation of most common fruit trees.

Roots to Fruits

Common Vision is piloting “Roots to Fruits - School Nurseries to Feed Communities” at 3-4 schools on this year’s Fruit Tree Tour. Common Vision works with the students and teachers to propagate a nursery of 50 – 200 saplings of varieties of fruits that are especially requested and adapted for school plantings in their area. Common Vision educators demonstrate the process of grafting fruit trees (see Grafting 101 below). Students witness and participate in one of the most amazing miracles in nature, the combining of two trees to give both strong roots and delicious fruits. Common Vision gives students the charge to care for the young trees for two years. These trees can then be planted at community centers, neighborhoods in their area and shared with more schools during Fruit Tree Tours to come.

Common Vision’s first “Roots to Fruits” nurseries:

Vista Del Valle Elementary
3 years and 33 fruit trees deep in Fruit Tree Tour participation Vista was honored to be the first Roots to Fruits Nursery. They are caring for 50 grafted apples and 20 rooting fig cuttings.

North Hollywood High School
Under the guidance of soil science teacher Randy Vail, the students in the Naturalist Academy – an environmental track at North Hollywood High, will be hosting the largest Roots to Fruits Nursery. There nursery is holding 50 apples, 100 grape, and 100 fig trees for Fruit Tree Tour. Additionally they gifted Common Vision with 20 4 year old Cherimoya trees. Big thanks for this budding collaboration.

Carrying the seed

From the indigenous communities of Mexico, Fruit Tree Tour has been honored to travel with a seed carrier, bringing ancient Mayan corn seed to schools to plant with children. The schools agree to take care of the corn and provide a sanctuary for the preservation of the native seed, a refuge, in an act of solidarity with the traditional farming communities that are struggling to maintain their ancient ways. The seeds carry a message of the importance of preserving native seeds and the traditional culture contained within. Students learn from the seed carrier about the genetic modification of corn seeds and the effects of a variety of different modifications, including the threats that these modifications have upon the ancient way of growing our own food from seeds.

The three crops of corn, beans and squash are grown together in Mexico to feed large numbers of people. Students learn about how many products and foods in their daily lives are related to corn. In the desert climate of California where the wind blows strong, three corn seeds are planted together so that their roots will interweave, embracing each other and forming a stable base for the magnificent corn which can grow up to 17 feet tall. Each trio of seeds is spaced one large step away from the next trio of seeds. The corn is planted a depth of 3 inches deep, about the length of an adult's finger pressed into the soil, and then gently covered with soil. The corn likes to be watered once a week, with a good soak, and to dry out again before the next watering 8 days later. The youth are encouraged to care for their corn and thanked for their participation in the global effort to save seed and conserve culture.