Thursday, February 28, 2013
It just keeps getting better! Just when we think that Fruit Tree Tour can’t possibly blow us away again, it does! From our amazing new crew to generous corporate sponsors to maturing collaborations with community organizations like Planting Justice and Spring Street Farm, Common Vision is collectively pinching ourselves at how much good news we have to share.
When we first started planting school orchards we were pretty much in the bare-root business. We planted new school orchards as fast as our bio-powered fleet could get us to the next stop, and put on one BIG show in the process...big enough that Common Visionary Zak Human and the Woven Media crew won an Emmy Award for their PBS special about Fruit Tree Tour titled Plant the Vision.
Now, as we return to orchards planted on past tours, we are beyond blown away to see the profound positive change the presence a thriving schoolyard orchard is having on students, teachers, administrators and the surrounding community. There’s way more to share than we can pack into one email, but below are a few wordy highlights from the past week that we hope give you just a teeny tiny sense of what a massive blessing and privilege it is to be a part of Fruit Tree Tour.
So, thank you all again and again for your support. Scroll down, relax, and enjoy catching up on some really good stuff happening out there in the world, that YOU are helping make happen!
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Following a recent round of budget cuts, the garden program at Jefferson High in LA abruptly ended, and its 35-tree school orchard was in need of urgent care. That’s when RootDown LA came to the rescue with ongoing care of the orchard. But first, we had to whoop out a busload of Common Vision-grade loving to bring this fledgling food forest back to life.
When looking at the photos immediately above, you may be asking yourself, “why is that guy watering cardboard boxes? Shouldn't he be watering fruit trees? What kind of tour is this anyway?” Well, the answer is, the triage plan for this orchard included a mulching of mythic proportions to rebuild soil, kick start micro life, and reinvigorate the orchard ASAP.
But wait, there’s more. It gets even better.
A junior at Jefferson High shared how “super stoked” she was that Common Vision came back. She also shared how hard she was working with fellow students to get their test scores high enough to get their funding back. Thankfully, the School Orchard Movement is starting to thrive throughout the state, and with a little collaboration between RootDown LA and Common Vision, this orchard’s future will be a whole lot juicier now.
We have to end this post by sharing a sweet story of synchronicity. Sadly, when garden programs get cut, kids miss out on learning many of the big basics of life on earth like the fact that fruit forms from a flower. We love seeing the awe on kids’ faces learning about this natural connection for the first time. Our visit to Jefferson High included one wonderful moment when a single bee landed in front of us, playing its part in the never-ending cycle of life, demonstrating pollination at the exact moment we were explaining it. Things that make you go, Hmmmm.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
We are honored and humbled at the opportunity to collaborate with the Long Beach Community Action Project at their cosmic-class Spring Street Farm, an urban, organic teaching farm and farm stand. The farm "mitigates blight and boasts row farming; demonstration plots; a farm stand for produce sales; a chicken yard; and a rain garden.”
Located in a neighborhood next to an oil field, this place is pumping out fresh fruit and veggies like it’s everybody’s business. And it is. Spring Street Farm Stand serves the local community by providing a place to procure fresh, local, organic produce. Better still, they accept food stamps and hire local youth. BOOM!
Ready to really rock your reality? Spring Street Farm, a tiny 1.5 acre agricultural oasis in the middle of industrial Long Beach, also has its own families of ducks, geese and chicken that help keep the scourge of suburbia from encroaching on the farm, lawn grass.
It gets better. Long Beach Community Action Partnership distributes an astonishing amount of food grown at the farm to the community through awesome neighborhood networks. If you ever find yourself in Long Beach, stop by and prepare to be inspired. And how is the 40-tree orchard Common Vision planted at Spring Street Farm on Fruit Tree Tour in 2011? According to Michael Flynn it’s “super thriving!”
We recommend checking out their blog, The Farm Desk, or following Spring Street Farm Project on Facebook.
Monday, February 25, 2013
If the signs are any indication, it’s going to be a fruity future at Palms Elementary in Los Angeles. On our stop there this season, we planted nine new fruit trees and mulched the heck out of the orchard. Thank you to all of our donors who sponsored the art supplies that the kids used to make signs showing what’s what in their new school orchard.
Here’s what Clémence Gossett, the garden program director Palms Elementary had to say when she wrote to us after our visit:
"Thank you so very, very much for bringing your kindness, energy and expertise to Palms this Monday. Our garden is vibrant and nourished thanks to your help. Your volunteers were beyond wonderful. Their enthusiasm and patience with the students was appreciated by our friends, teachers and students. This was truly an experience that will keep on giving! Please forward this email to your volunteers. You can follow our gardens’ progress on Facebook."
Sunday, February 24, 2013
In addition to all of the free, fresh fruit a school orchard provides, one of the best added benefits is parent participation. At Carthay Center Elementary in Los Angeles, parents showed up in force for a workday with Common Vision to care for their 25-tree orchard and plant four more. This is what it’s all about!
Friday, February 22, 2013
Here’s an interesting tidbit for all you contemporary anthropologists following the emergence of post-modern School Orchard Movement in California. Common Vision’s collaboration with Planting Justice is proof positive that orchards can outlive institutions, and keep communities together in the process.
Case in point is a school orchard planted back in 2008 at Explore College Preparatory Middle School in Oakland. Sadly, the school has since closed due to funding cuts. In the case of this school closing, there was an orchard left behind, and a community that came together to care for it. Feeling good yet?
This 20-tree fruity oasis is not your average urban orchard either. It is situated on a steep slope perfect for a swale to soak up rainwater. We really love putting our permaculture skills to work whenever the landscape allows. On this visit, we installed a new drip irrigation system to help the community easily keep up on watering, especially during the East Bay’s warmer (ahem) months.
And it gets even better. Since the school closed, our friends at Planting Justice stepped in and set up a program to host work parties and alert neighbors when fruit is ripe and ready for the picking. Planting Justice is a non-profit organization based in Oakland, CA dedicated to food justice, economic justice, and sustainable local food systems.
They are the first organization of their kind to combine ecological training and urban food production with a grassroots door-to-door organizing model. They make sure that urban orchards grow deep roots in their local community.
So, when you donate to Common Vision, or any group in the School Orchard Movement, you really are leaving behind a living legacy that creates community, and that’s gotta feel good!
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Castlemont has a vigorous school orchard featuring 15 mature trees, some planted by Common Vision all the way back in 2009. When we visited in 2012, the trees were growing so ridiculously well that we had to return again on this tour to bring them back down to size for students who can’t slam dunk. In the process, our prunemasters taught students how to work magic with sheers in the orchard and turn vigorous fruit trees into abundant ones!