Students work in orchard on MLK Day of Service

Posted 1/22/20

School was out Jan. 20, but around 100 students and volunteers still gathered at Blue Heron Middle School to celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a day of service.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Students work in orchard on MLK Day of Service

Posted

School was out Jan. 20, but around 100 students and volunteers still gathered at Blue Heron Middle School to celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a day of service.

The MLK day of service is observed as “a day on, not a day off,” and with shovels in hand, students got to work spreading wood chips, biochar and cow manure around the trees at the school’s orchard.

“Cover all the poop!” was the cry from kids hard at work, piling wood chips into wheelbarrows to spread on top of the layers of biochar and cow manure.

The day is meant to invoke the attitude King upheld during his life: teaming up to create stronger communities. At Blue Heron, spreading mulch is a big part of helping the community, as the trees in the school’s orchard feed students in the community.

“Since 2008, Quimper Community Harvest, also known as The Gleaners, have picked excess fruit from neighborhood trees in eastern Jefferson County and delivered over 96,000 pounds of local, organic fruit to the food bank, schools, and senior centers,” said Seth Rolland, one of the organizers of The Gleaners, in an email.

The Gleaners helped students plant the first 20 trees in the orchard back in 2010. Since then, financial support from the Food Co-op, Raincoast Farms and local individuals, as well as trees donated from local nurseries allowed the students to add 50 more trees and install an 8-foot deer fence.

“Now there are 70 trees including 12 varieties of apples, three types of European pears, four varieties of Asian pears, two types of plums, and two varieties of figs,” Rolland said. “This fall the Blue Heron Orchard produced over 1,500 pounds of fruit—much of it picked by students—that went straight to the classrooms and lunch program for the district.”

Beyond providing more nutrition for students, the orchard also eliminates “food miles,” by putting the fruit right next to the kids, allowing them to pick the fruit themselves, work in the orchard and learn more about gardening, Rolland said.

“Sometimes we get to go pick the fruit,” said Hugh Wentzel, an 8th grader at Blue Heron, who participated in the MLK day of service. “The extra nutrition at lunch helps our brains work better.”

He said his favorites to eat are the apples, but there are also plums and pears as well.

“It has been shown through school garden programs that kids are more likely to eat and enjoy produce when they see it growing,” he said.

The project also introduces the middle school students, teachers and parents to the practice of sustainable, organic agriculture. The trees were planted with all organic materials and fenced without plastic or pressure-treated wood. The orchard is a pesticide-free zone.

“Some teachers have been using the orchard for scientific observation, experiments, as a place for students to write poetry, or as a reward, letting them go pick fruit,” Rolland said. “It is an ideal place to study the entire cycle from pollination to harvest.”

Beyond the volunteers who came out to spread the manure and wood chips, local business owners also participated by donating the materials. The piles of wood chips were donated by Hermann Brothers and Shold Nursery, while Francesco Tortorici supplied the biochar. An additional 20 yards of cow manure was provided at a discount by Roger and Bill Short of Short’s Family Farm.

The orchard is being supported by a $500 matching fund from the Food Co-op, but could use more donations. Anyone who wants to chip in and help out can contact Rolland at sethrolland@gmail.com.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment