Community Groves℠ – Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Saul Agricultural High School

(Pennsylvania, PA)- The local non-profit Pennsylvania Horticultural Society received funding from ACTrees to develop a Community Groves℠ project planting a fruit and nut tree orchard at Saul Agricultural High School.

BUILDING THE TEAM

Lesson: Public School Cooperation

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society City Harvest staff identified Saul Agricultural High School as the place to undertake this fruit and nut tree project and also brought in Weavers Way Cooperative Farm staff farmers and Henry Got Crops Community Supported Agriculture members as the main project team. The staff, teachers and students of the school deepened their relationship with Weavers Way Farm staff and with PHS City Harvest staff and have been incredibly enthusiastic about the project. High School staff members have facilitated the work of the project with additional equipment support and time. Eight different Saul classes helped with the orchard, many for multiple days and experiences. Elsevier Press brought twelve staff members to volunteer on one of the major planting days. A number of CSA members put volunteer time into the orchard multiple days.

PA.HORT.SOC.1In honor of this community-wide support, PHS provided each student, teacher, CSA member, and all other volunteers with a Certificate of Appreciation. Two visiting artists from France who were preparing an installation and food event in Fall 2013 visited for the ceremony, got to speak with students and reported how overwhelmed and pleased they were by the enthusiasm of the students and partners. The orchard serves as a life lab that engages students in science and horticulture, with educational signs created by PHS.

PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION

Lesson: Pest Control

All the fruit varieties and types were chosen with disease resistance in mind. Trees were fenced off with a barrier from deer browsing, either individually or as a group. Soil fertility was improved through cover cropping, compost amendments and other amendments like peat moss and elemental sulfur for the blueberries. Regular monitoring for pests was provided by both Weavers Way and PHS staff. The blueberries are netted each year during the harvest period. Since the fruit trees started producing (like the asian pears, cherries and plums) flowers the Weavers Way staff regularly apply kaolinite clay with a class of students to create an insect barrier. They have a regular watering schedule that is the responsibility of a class, and is checked on regularly by Weavers Way farmers, to minimize tree stress from over or under-watering. They also use tanglefoot, Bt and other organic pest management techniques as required.

ON-GOING OPERATIONS

Lesson: Education and Community Engagement and Harvest

PA.HORT.SOC.2Over 200 Saul Agricultural High School students experienced cover cropping, installation of an orchard, and irrigation of an orchard. Most reported that this was their first experience with fruit trees. PHS provided educational signs for each of the crops planted and the partners plan to make these signs more permanent, so that they can be used as a teaching tool. They plan to hold annual workshops in the orchard for area gardeners and students on the following topics; winter pruning, spring thinning, summer pruning and organic pest prevention and control for orchards. The high school teachers have committed to continue to bring students out to the orchard for horticultural experience.

Learn more about Community Groves℠.