THE FRESNO BEE
by Joan Obra
Of course, there is life beyond the virtual world. Take an event such as Common Vision's visit to Fresno this week.
This environmentally minded nonprofit has embarked on its sixth annual Emmy Award-winning "Fruit Tree Tour" throughout California. Picture 25 idealistic volunteers traveling on brightly painted, vegetable-oil-powered buses. They stop in cities to plant fruit trees, play some instruments, and encourage everyone they meet to take care of the environment in their own communities.
"There's more to the environment than rain forests and polar bears," says Michael Flynn, Common Vision's director of education and program development.
The tour, which has planted thousands of fruit trees, is stopping in such cities as Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Hemet and Sacramento. Common Vision reaches out to low-income schools in these areas, where "access to fresh, healthy food is a real challenge," Flynn says.
The tour can help this problem. For example, fruit trees planted by Common Vision in previous years now yield fresh fruit for some Los Angeles schools' salad bars.
Flynn once thought that folks living in agricultural areas such as the central San Joaquin Valley would have a better connection to fruits and vegetables. But that isn't necessarily true. As a result, the tour is stopping in Fresno for the first time.
It will visit Kirk Elementary on Thursday and Columbia Elementary on Friday. Students at both schools will see volunteers don costumes and act in musical plays about the environment.
The kids will get to create their own messages while playing drums and other rhythm instruments. "Students envision changes they wish to see, make rhymes to them and set them to music," Flynn says.
Common Vision's plans at these elementary schools have one glitch, however. Like some other school districts, Fresno Unified doesn't allow the planting of fruit trees on campuses.
Fresno Unified spokeswoman Susan Bedi wrote in an e-mail that the district's concern is the safety of the students and the need for chemicals for pest control.
Instead, Common Vision will plant autumn purple ash trees at both schools. So if the students can't get any fruit, at least they'll be able to get some shade.
Common Vision won't leave without bestowing some fruit trees on Fresno, however.
The public is invited to help plant about 30 trees in the African American Historical and Cultural Museum's courtyard. The event starts 4 p.m. Friday at 1857 Fulton St.
The goal is a compact orchard that would produce fruit for the whole year, Flynn says.
And since those Kirk and Columbia students won't have the pleasure of picking fruit off their own trees, here's hoping their teachers will take them on field trips to the African American Historical and Cultural Museum.
For it's all very well to sing, dance, and play drums to celebrate fruit. But it's another thing entirely to eat figs, persimmons and nectarines fresh off the trees.