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Fruit Tree Tour Brings Sustainable Living Lessons to Deterding Elementary

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By Joshua Staab

In a day-long planting and performance program, Common Vision teaches Carmichael students about the importance of good nutrition and local food security.

Students from Deterding Elementary School received a lesson in sustainable living and bio-diversity Monday afternoon, courtesy of Common Vision, a grassroots caravan of self-proclaimed tree-planting troubadours.

They came in a blue bio-fueled old charter bus with the words "Common Vision" hand-painted on the side and a mission to plant trees in California public schoolyards.
The group's nearly 10-year California pilgrimage brought them to Deterding Elementary where students and Common Vision's volunteers planted a number of new fruit trees in the southwest portion of schools field.

According to the Common Vision mission statement, the tour has planted more than 200 "orchard oases in food deserts throughout the state."

Bringing part of that mission to Deterding Elementary, Common Vision spokesman Michael Flynn explained it's not always about planting an oasis in a "food desert." Flynn explained that while Carmichael isn't necessarily a food desert, the tour provided students here with practical lessons in sustainable food sources — like how to plant an orange tree. Flynn explained for the Central Valley, imparting students with knowledge of growing food at home instead of buying it in the grocery store could pay long-term dividends.

"If we had two primary missions with the Fruit Tree Tour it would be, number one is the food access — growing fresh food right here on the schoolyard," Flynn said. "The other is giving students the experience of making change in their community, change in their environment and really making a change in their global environment, working right in their schoolyard."

"We work with the students to acknowledge that, right here, this is your environment; the place where you make the difference is right in your home, in your community, in your schoolyard."

Deterding principal Timmi Elcock believes the program reinforces the school's curriculum, which provides focus to a number of arts, environmental and ecological issues. In fact, it was Deterding parent and Sacramento County Master Gardeners member Beth Hatch who invited Common Vision to the school.

"They're planting fruit trees out here, so that's just a great example for the kids," Elcock said. "It just sounded like the perfect match here."

The program included a number of lessons beyond planting trees, too. Common Vision provided students with lessons in designing signage for the trees as well as a socially and environmentally conscious puppet show. The entire program earned Common Vision an Emmy Award.

As the troupe makes its way through Sacramento, it also crosses a milestone as well. This fall Common Vision expects to plant its 5,000th fruit tree. The caravan will next travel to CCAA Elementary in North Highlands and then the Language Academy charter school in Sacramento before heading to Nevada City. The tour’s bio-fueled fleet and solar-powered stage will visit other California towns through Oct 4.

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