(Rensselaer, IN)- The student organization GREEN Pumas at St. Joseph’s College received funding from ACTrees to develop a Community Groves℠ project planting fruit and nut trees at the local elementary St. Augustine School as an extension of the College’s campus-based Community Learning Garden.
BUILDING THE TEAM
While GREEN Pumas anticipate fully developing further partnerships over time with local organizations, they certainly strengthened the College’s partnerships through this Community Groves project. Every one of the 100+ students at St. Augustine School participated in the tree planting, and the children expressed their excitement for returning each year to pick fruit. The Rensselaer Urban Forestry Council has placed our orchard as a point of interest on the Community Forest Walking Tour, and they have expressed their appreciation by awarding this project with the Outstanding Vision Award for 2012.
In addition, Sodexo Food Services has researched the use of utilizing local food in the School cafeteria, and a meeting was held in August 2012 to discuss arrangements for the future. The Jasper County Rural Electric Member Cooperative provided shredded limbs and bark mulch, which is a new partnership. Most recently, the GREEN Pumas worked with a Purdue Extension agent to plan a spring workshop in orchard management. This was the first collaboration with Purdue University, and they look forward to many more.
PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION
The orchard was planted in five wide rows of fruit and nut trees with heavy organic mulch paper and shredded bark and limbs used to mulch the trees. Additional mulch will be added yearly as needed. The trees are watered through a temporary drive irrigation until the permanent water lines can be run by the Physical Plant of St. Joseph’s College. The trees are monitored weekly for moisture and pests by the GREEN Pumas intern and project managers
Lesson: Education and Community Engagement
The GREEN Pumas, volunteers from the community, and the children from St. Augustine School have participated in service learning opportunities. A college student intern also works on weeding rows, watching for pests, and irrigation. The student intern also constructed a deer fence, installed tree guards, and sprayed an organic deer repellent prior to the fall deer rut season.
Additionally, two St. Joseph’s College courses utilized the orchard as sites for learning: (1) ESS 259 Fundamentals of Soil Science, which completed additional soil testing and learned about the relationship between soils and fruit/nut production, and (2) EDC 370 Science Methods for Elementary Teachers, a class for pre-service teachers, explored the orchard as a site for science learning in the elementary schools and it served as inspiration for designing a school garden project. All fruit that set in the project’s first summer was removed to hasten root development. Tree Keepers from St. Augustine School visited and learned more about the orchard and examined their growth, since this group helped to plant it. Lastly, the freshman seminar groups (total of 238 students) visited the orchard and learned about urban agriculture.
Lesson: Harvest and Distribution
After extensive research in establishing an orchard, all fruit that was set in the project’s first spring was removed so that the energy could go toward root development. Beginning in 2013, all fruit will be picked by the GREEN Pumas and distributed to 1.) St. Augustine School Children – 30% 2.) St. Joseph’s College cafeteria – 40% 3.) the Good Samaritan Food Pantry (30%).
Learn more about Community Groves℠.