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Orchard planted at Bay View to teach sustainability

SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL

by Geoffrey A. Paulsen

A traveling crew of modern-day Johnny Appleseeds stopped in Santa Cruz on Tuesday to teach students about caring for the environment and to plant a 20-tree orchard at Bay View Elementary.

The traveling caravan, known as the Fruit Tree Tour, is a program run by the nonprofit Common Vision. The fleet of buses and vans is run on vegetable oil and houses the 27-person crew during the tour. Common Vision partners with schools and other groups throughout California to encourage sustainability.

"In our garden, there is this vacant spot and I was dreaming of planting an orchard and so I contacted Common Vision," said Libby Christensen Rayburn, nutrition educator at Bay View.

The Bay View orchard was Rayburn's three-year goal when she started at the school in the fall. After clearing it with the school and partnering with Common Vision, Rayburn's goal was realized within her first year.

"We are teaching by doing," Rayburn said. "So making organic produce seemed real for kids."

The orchard will have a variety of different fruits including apples, pears, plums, peaches and nectarines. The fruit from the trees will eventually be served in the school's cafeteria and be used in nutrition classes to teach drying and canning. Students will also be involved in the care of the trees as part of the school's garden science program.

The day's activities included Common Vision's assembly and tree planting and a booth set up by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers to give the students an opportunity to taste test the fruits they would soon be nurturing.

Spirits were high Tuesday despite the wet weather and subsequent mud, as the older grades were able get their hands dirty and see the work that goes into planting a tree.

"We find that the Fruit Tree Tour program, which combines the arts and theater with the tree planting, connects the students to the planting of their tree in a really meaningful way," said Michael Flynn, director of education for Common Vision. "When we talk to principals years later, they still have students that come back and want to care for their tree and protect their tree."

While the older students might not be able to see the fruits of their labors, the impact of the tree will be long and lasting.

"It's not going to fruit until the kids have gone onto middle school," Rayburn said, referring to the fourth- and fifth-graders involved in the planting. "So what the kids are doing today is they are creating a gift for all the other kids to come."

Common Vision said the trees will start seeing "big yields" in three to five years, and can last in excess of 100 years, depending on the variety.

This is the seventh year of the Fruit Tree Tour. Common Vision has planted 4,000 trees since starting, and teaches 10,000 students every year.

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