On April 11th, 35 trees arrived from Adam’s County Nursery in Aspers, PA. These trees were purchased with some of the funds generously donated by the Class of 2011. We have chosen 4 varieties of apple trees to start our orchard including the heirloom, Pippin, and 3 scab-resistant varieties: Crimson Crisp, Initial, and Querina. It is our hope that within 3 years these trees will be producing a good amount of local, organic, and delicious fruit for our community partners in Brockton. The fruit of each variety will ripen at different times over the course of the growing season, providing us with a nice, long apple harvest season.
The instructions from the nursery were the following: keep roots moist, store the box in a cool and dry area, and plant within 2 weeks – at the most! These tasks were easily accomplished with the help of over 50 volunteers. Helpers included students from my Environmental Science class, Professor Corey Dolgon’s Introduction to Sociology class, Professor Tom Balf’s Environmental Science class, and other new and returning students and staff volunteers who joined us during “volunteer hours” on Thursdays and Fridays.
After assessing our farm’s current footprint, we decided to establish the orchard in the southwest corner of our field. On April 13th, Sheriden and Brian arrived a bit earlier than the rest of the day’s volunteers and helped me place a stake where each hole would need to be dug. The trees have been grafted onto a semi-dwarf stock, so the trees will only grow to be about 8 to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide. This will allow for easy picking – we hope the deer don’t think so too!
A couple of hours after Brian, Sheriden and I laid out the orchard, a large group of volunteers joined us and quickly dug holes where each stake had been placed. We even had enough time that afternoon to plant the first 10 trees, and chose the Crimson Crisp variety to be the first to go in the ground.
The trees seemed to utter sighs of relief as they went from their cramped, dark quarters in the box into the warm soil and compost. Each tree received 5 gallons of water to help them weather the unseasonably warm, dry days.
We waited for the warmest days of the following week to pass before planting the remaining trees on April 19th and 20th.
On Thursday afternoon Sean Vermette, the college’s painter, and his two children, Maeve and Will joined us to ensure that one of the Querina apple trees settled nicely into it’s new home.
Sean held the tree in place while Will and Maeve filled the hole in with soil and compost.
I have a feeling that Will and Maeve will be visiting from time to time to check on the progress of their little tree. I hope they will not be too disappointed by the long wait for their tree’s first apples!
That same afternoon, students from Prof. Tom Balf’s class planted the 9 remaining Querina Apple Trees after learning a little bit about cover crops, crop rotation, drip irrigation and other sustainable farming practices.
Many of these students were new to the farm, and I was impressed by their careful and efficient work. I look forward to welcoming them back anytime!
After planting the trees, these students made quick work of delivering 5 gallons of water to each tree. We will be setting up drip irrigation over the next couple of weeks for each tree to get them through the hottest months of the summer.
It’s hard not to smile as you see the orchard going in.
The last few trees were planted on April 20th – well within the 2 week window suggested by Adam’s County Nursery.
Under bright blue and sunny skies, Joe Favazza, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the Faculty, and Katie Conboy, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, joined students Sarah, Erin, Dan, Tim and me to plant the last couple of Pippin apple trees.
It will take a couple of years until the trees bear fruit, but we are already reaping the benefits of growing an orchard as a community.
A big thank you to the Class of 2011 for donating the trees, and to the students and staff who helped perform orchard layout, dig the holes, plant the trees, apply the compost, and water the trees.
Please visit often to nurture the orchard and watch it grow.