Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Building a Healthier Community


Many thanks to Nutiva for blogging about our amazing planting together at Richmond College Prep School. It is thanks totally to Nutiva that Common Vision is blessed with the opportunity to plant a new orchard on the campus of every public school in Richmond!

> Read Nutiva's Full Post

Friday, March 8, 2013

Orchard Curriculum launched at four Southern California schools


We figured that if McDonalds could contribute to public school curriculum, well...so can
Common Vision. We are very proud to announce that we just launched the first unit in our Orchard Curriculum at four Southern California elementary schools: Carthay, Palms, Round Meadow and Vista del Valle.

Thanks to your support, Common Vision’s week-long unit on decomposers features the
California Education and Environment Initiative (EEI) Curriculum as a base and includes hands-on compost and mulching exercises in the orchard. Now, in addition to leaving a wake of fruit forests in food deserts, we are also leaving behind lesson plans straight out of the book of life itself.

For example, orchard learning activities include composting and mulching, when students are introduced to the deep ecological reasons for maintaining soil health. Our juicy curriculum transforms school orchards into living classrooms right in the heart of the city. Now, that is some serious schweetness!!!

California is currently poised to lead the nation in environmental literacy with the Education and Environment Initiative (EEI), a national model designed to help prepare today’s students to become future scientists, economists, and green technology leaders. The K-12th grade curriculum is comprised of 85 units teaching select Science and History-Social Science academic standards. Each EEI Curriculum unit teaches these standards to mastery using a unique set of California Environmental Principles and Concepts. The curriculum was created to bring education about the environment into the primary and secondary classrooms of more than 1,000 school districts serving over 6 million students throughout California.

Thank you so very much for an incredible orchard day at Carthay! We were so very impressed with your team - they worked so hard and so efficiently and with such kindness. It was absolutely amazing - as soon as tree (or vine : ) trimmings dropped to the Earth another team member was there to haul it away - all six dumpsters full!

And I can't believe how quickly the mountain of mulch was moved, and the grapes pruned and everything else expertly pruned and fed - it was a beautiful day and we thank you for it. It is such a HUGE help to have Common Vision come to Carthay each year - our fruit trees anchor our garden. With the care you provide these trees will preserve it for many years and many generations of students to come. Thank you for the amazing work you do.

- Teresa Dahl, Sustainability Schoolyard Ombudsman, Los Angeles Unified School District and Cathay Elementary Garden Coordinator

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A daytrip down to Orange County


We had so many LA area schools on the schedule this tour that we only had time for a daytrip down to Orange County for a fantastic planting at
Brea Junior High School. With so much suburban sprawl, it’s amazing to remember that OC's namesake were the orchards that once carpeted the county. It’s great to see students start to reclaim some of that heritage by planting a new school orchard. Eighteen new fruit trees went in the ground today, and urban agriculture continued its beautiful expansion into Southern California suburbs.

As fulfilling as it is for Fruit Tree Tour to return to thriving orchards that we planted back before co-director Leo Buc was 21, we have to admit that there’s a uniquely special feeling in the air when we are putting a new school orchard in the ground for the first time. Watching a schoolyard transform from a lawn into an orchard in just a day is itself transformative to witness. A superindent from the local school district came by Brea Junior High to see what all the buzz was about. After watching our amazing all-volunteer army of modern-day Johnny Appleseeds in action, he turned and told us, “I love it!”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Massive gratitude to EnrichLA for keeping Markham’s orchard juicy


It’s not every day that the flagship of our biofueled fleet gets a chance to play the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but our visit to Markham Middle School was one such auspicious occasion. On this visit, we returned to prune and feed the trees, improve the irrigation system, and create colorful orchard signs with the students. It was great to see an entire 6th grade science class outside using the orchard as a living laboratory!

First planted on Fruit Tree Tour 2007, this 30-tree orchard is producing tons of free, fresh juicy fruit. We want to express gratitude to EnrichLA for being the group on the ground who makes sure that Markham’s orchard gets enough to drink during the hot Southern California summers. 

EnrichLA is an environmental non-profit focused on adding edible school gardens to public schools. Their gardens are inexpensive, promote community involvement, encourage respect for the planet, act as outdoor classrooms, cheer up school campuses, help students build a good work ethic, and promote thoughtful and healthy eating habits. Needless to say, we are perfectly aligned!

Student innovation and drip irrigation at Crenshaw High in LA


The orchard Crenshaw High is more like a food forest than most school orchards. Rather than rows of trees in an otherwise manicured schoolyard, this more natural-looking ecosystem features multiple levels of canopy, permaculture style. In that spirit, some students, aware that water is too precious to waste, transformed a leaky water pipe into flood irrigation for their orchard by digging a drainage from the leak to the trees.

Originally planted by
Community Services Unlimited (CSU)  in 2003, there are now about 55 mature fruit trees at Crenshaw High including mango, sapote, Chilean wine palm, loquats, figs and all sorts of tasty tropical and subtropical fruits. We’ve been hearing about this orchard for years and really wanting to make it a stop on Fruit Tree Tour.

Many thanks to Crenshaw for inviting us to stop by and unload a bus-load of Common Vision-strength lovin’. It was a fast and furious half-day stop where we were able to put their entire food forest on drip irrigation thanks to engaged, helpful students.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1st grade teacher turns orchard caretaker at Will Rogers Elementary


Will Rogers Elementary was the first school where we introduced mulch mania and installed drip irrigation. The payoff has been a bumper crop of peaches, figs and persimmons. Big juicy props go out to first grade teacher Kris Guzman for volunteering to be the school’s primary orchard caretaker. Thanks to some seriously skillful pruning by Kris, these trees have the strong structure they need to produce tons and tons of fruit for years and years to come. This year marked our third visit here!

When we first visted
Will Rogers Elementary in 2011, they had just seven fruit trees. We made it full-scale school orchard by planting 18 more.   They now have a producing cheriymoya, one of Common Vision’s official favorite varieties. Cherimoya trees love Southern California’s coastal climate from San Diego to Santa Barbara, prime planting territory for Fruit Tree Tour. According to Michael Flynn, it is "a super delicious fruit with sweet undertones of bubble gum.” Besides citrus, it is one of the only fruits in season during Spring tour, another reason we love it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Innovative AG programs promote community participation in school orchards


You’ve seen the orchard at
Stephen White Middle School featured in our recent 5-minute video report on Fruit Tree Tour. This orchard is also special because it’s part of an innovative hybrid model where students and community members cooperatively care for it.

The school’s innovative AG program provides city-dwellers a place to grow food and provides the school with the volunteer base that it needs to keep its garden and orchard thriving. Part of the deal is that the school gets an allotment of garden plots and fresh produce to educate and nourish students. It’s a match made in heaven!

Shortly after we planted the orchard in 2011, it fell fallow due to adminstrative turnover, and their cherimoya tree didn’t survive the transition. Enter Javier, the owner of a local garden and landscape company. Javier stepped up early on to help care for Stephen White Middle School’s orchard, and when the cherimoya that we originally planted gave up the sap, Javier replaced is right away. That’s the kind of community support we are seeing at more and more of our maturing orchards across California.

The happy ending, or rather new beginning, to this report is that Stephen White Middle School is reinvigorating its once-thriving AG program. When it first opened in the 1950s, the campus included over an acre of land set aside for an urban farm. Hard to believe, huh? Its sister campus,
Peary Middle School–also the home of a Common Vision orchard–shares a virtually identical campus design. It’s super inspiring to see both schools get back to their agricultural roots in the heart of LA’s urban sprawl.

Another orchard hero is Henry Washington from Peary Middle School. He’s not only got a green thumb but he is an awesome role model in and out of the orchard.  It is beautiful to watch the kids return his kindness in spades with massive mutual respect. It’s our third year working side-by-side with this local legend, and their apples are some of the sweetest we’ve ever tasted.

In the words of Leo Buc, these communities are "doing a super fantastic job showing how school orchards can bring, and keep, people together, even, and especially, during a transition in leadership.”

You’d think school orchards could save the world or something. We do!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Good Food Movement takes root in South LA

The Good Food Movement is putting down deep roots and bearing real fruit in South LA. How deep? Deep enough now that CSU treated the Common Vision crew to a nutritious, delicious dinner at their very own “beyond organic” seasonal cafe at The Village Marketplace in Mercado La Poloma, a mall-style neighborhood food court run by a local non-profit organization.  It is inspiring to see a community rise up and work together to create local food security and good green jobs.
The Village Marketplace sells what they grow, supports local farmers, teaches natural farming, and makes good food available at affordable prices in accessible places through South LA. So, if you’ve ever wondered where the fruit from our orchards can end up, it’s at amazing new social enterprises like this that are starting to sprout across the state.

Healthy Food Map features Common Vision orchards in South LA

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> Download the Health Food Map

It was a perfect storm of sustainability on the day that the Common Vision caravan visited Normandie Avenue Elementary. That same day, our perennial partner, Community Services Unlimited (CSU), launched their new Healthy Food Map heralding the end of South LA’s status as a food desert.
To get the word out about the launch of CSU'S Healthy Food Map, 50 local cyclists pedaled their way to stops on the map, including our thriving 50-tree orchard at Normandie Avenue Elementary. The combo of 50 energized cyclists, 50 thriving fruit trees and a busload of Common Visionaires was 100% EPIC, and a sign of good things to come!
The Healthy Food Map shows residents of South LA where local, fresh, organic food is now available nearby–everywhere from urban farm stands to school orchards like the one Common Vision and CSU planted at Normandie Avenue Elementary way back in 2005.
It was also amazing to work side-by-side again with master gardener Ned Boyer who has been helping take care of the Normandie Avenue Elementary orchard since it was first planted back in 2005. The school created a living classroom by installing a perfect circle of permanent benches in their thriving school orchard.  When asked how the trees are doing, Leo Buc exclaimed, “Their apples are cranking!”

Friday, March 1, 2013

Optimum Bubble Speed discovered in LA


Common Vision is almost as well known for our all-organic, solar-powered, bio-fueled fleet as we are for our school orchards. As we’ve toured the state over the past ten years we’ve been called “a bus full of hope” and “a bliss bubble leaving orchards in its wake.” This year, we’re now known in LA for actual bubbles blowing behind the bus.

On Saturday, January 23, when we pulled onto the parking lot also known to Los Angelenos as Interstate 5, well, we got a bit bored. And what better way to pass the time with a busload of tree-planting do-gooders than to have a bubble-blowing contest. How is this at all relevant you ask? Well, we learned two interesting lessons.

First, optimal bubble speed (OBS) is between 8 and 13 miles per hour, depending on humidity, where the bubble wand needs only to be held out the window to rain bubbles on the freeway. Second, we were reminded how amazingly hyperconnected humanity is, even when just sitting in traffic. Someone else inching along with us on Interstate 5 saw our web address on the bus, and sent a real-time message thanking us for the bubbles and the smiles!

Vista del Valle teams up with Sustainable Clairmont to teach Orchard Curriculum

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Can you believe that some of the first students that we worked with at Vista del Valle Elementary are now in college? The orchard that they planted is thriving, especially if you love apples and apricots! Over the past eight years, their school orchard come to define campus culture; and the staff is completely committed to having Common Vision come back to help care for their fruit trees and roll out our Orchard Curriculum.

Working with
Sustainable Clairemont, Vista del Valle Elementary wants to set a statewide example of how effective an Orchard Curriculum can be in helping young minds deeply understand the earth sciences, social studies and language arts that they study in the classroom. Their local goal is to create collaborative models within their community to increase eco-literacy at every school in Clairemont. What a beautiful ripple effect!

Sustainable Claremont was formed to provide educational resources, to engage in advocacy, and to take actions that move their entire city towards sustainability, not only within Claremont but beyond its borders. They are a non-profit organization independent of the City who work in close cooperation with it and with other organizations such as Common Vision.

It is immeasurably rewarding to be welcomed back year after year to Vista de Valle, one of our most successful school orchards by far! We really loved this visit when a Vista del Valle volunteer came up and told us that her kids, now in college, had attended school there and still talk about the day that the Common Vision caravan first pulled onto campus.

How many elementary school programs did you still talk about at college? Your support made this magic possible. Thank you!!!