Guest Post: A Fruit Tree Care Dream Team
From the ORCHARD PEOPLE Blog:
Posted by Susan Poizner
They battle the odds. They never give up. They work together to make a difference. That’s the energy of San Romanoway’s “Dream Team,” the 2016 students and graduates of Orchard People’s Beginner Fruit Tree Care Training Program working together with their colleagues who graduated in 2015.
This group has done it all…they have climbed tall neighborhood fruit trees to remove diseased branches. They’ve worked together to thin out branches and improve air circulation in older trees. They are comfortable on a ladder, with a pole pruner or hand pruner or with a digging shovel in hand.
But their adventure began with a dream – the dream of bringing food security, greenery and growth to the Toronto community of Jane and Finch, which has long been challenged by poverty, youth unemployment and crime. This training, and the newly planted orchard on the property, has brought a new dimension to the lives of young people in this community and the possibility of new fruit tree adventures for years to come.
How It All Began
The fruit tree care training program is part of a dynamic initiative called the San Romanoway Towers Revival Project which aims to boost sustainability and food security on this property that is home to thousands of people who live in privately owned condos or low-income housing.
Spearheaded by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), the program was made possible as the result of support from amazing groups such Metcalfe Foundation, Toronto Hydro, Boise Project UP and W. Garfield Weston Foundation. The program has been implemented with the support of FoodShare and my company Orchard People Fruit Tree Care Consulting and Education.
Planting fruit trees in public spaces is no longer a new thing in North America. What was different in this initiative is that the TRCA felt that it was not enough to plant the fruit trees and hope for the best. So they included Orchard People’s Beginner Fruit Tree Care Certificate Program for residents to teach them how to care for their trees.
Fruit Tree Care On Site and Off
The Beginner Fruit Tree Care Certificate Program consists of 9 two-hour classes. The students learned theory in the classroom but spent at least half of the 18-hour program out of doors, using their new skills in hands-on fruit tree pruning and care.
We visited neighbourhood gardens to work on privately owned fruit trees of all ages. Often local homeowners, like Wilson Mosquera, had been encountering problems with their trees like fruit tree pest and disease problems and poor fruit production. Wilson and his family had apple, cherry and pear trees in their lovely garden. But his fruit trees trees were not thriving.
The students came, sterilized their tools and got to work. They removed larger diseased branches with a handsaw. They improved the air circulation on the trees and promoted growth by removing smaller branches with hand pruners, loppers and pole pruners. Over two hours the fruit trees looked very different. Wilson and his family were impressed.
“It was a surprise there was such help available for people (with fruit trees). The students talked to me and clarified all the things I didn’t know about how to care for my trees. It was a beautiful experience. Before I had a few issues with my trees, now (after the student’s work) they are doing well. Now one of my apple trees has produced so much fruit that the branches are starting to be heavy,” Wilson says.
Drought, Hail and Other Fruit Tree Challenges
But this year’s course came with many challenges. For instance, planting day was scheduled for May 15 and our goal was to plant 14 bare root fruit trees in the San Romanoway Orchard. But that morning there was an unseasonal wind and hailstorm! The students showed up ready to go to work anyway, but due to the terrible conditions we rescheduled the planting for the following day.
The next challenge was drought. This year we had the driest spring that we’ve had here in Ontario for years. This, coupled with delays in setting up the orchard’s irrigation system, made it challenging for the group to irrigate the orchard’s young trees. But even that didn’t stop the San Romanoway Dream Team, who met in the orchard multiple times a week to water the trees using water from the site’s rain barrels or carrying heavy buckets of water from the nearby community vegetable plots.
The students faced a fireblight breakout in their orchard as this nasty bacterial disease has been spreading in various locations in Toronto. And in another experience they found that an apricot tree planted years ago on the site was covered with a fruit tree pest called scale. That tree was removed to protect San Romanoways newly planted orchard. All this gave the students a glimpse of the challenges fruit tree growers can face and how important it is that you know how to protect your orchard with proper care.
And yet, despite the challenges the San Romanoway Dream Team was amazing. They worked together. They came up with solutions. And the fact that the young trees on the site are growing well today is completely the result of their knowledge, teamwork and dedication.
Graduation, Tools and Student Jobs
After a whirlwind course, graduation day for the 10 students of San Romanoway’s 2016 fruit tree care program was Saturday May 21. We met in the beautiful orchard in nearby Downsview Park. Planted 5 years ago, this was an opportunity to see how their fruit trees would look after five years of proper care. The day was sunny and lovely and the team brought family and friends to join in the fun.
Over the duration of the course the students had learned everything from fruit tree pruning, planting bare root trees, pest and disease prevention, and soil management so we started with a 20 question written test on Beginner Fruit Tree Care and a group review of the answers.
Then each graduate went up to accept their Certificate of Completion and a number of gifts including hand pruners and a tool bag generously donated by Corona Tools and a copy of my award-winning fruit tree care book “Growing Urban Orchards” that they can refer to over the years when caring for local fruit trees.
One of the graduates, Marina who comes from Brazil and has a degree in Biology, felt that she learned much more than she had expected in this free course. By the time graduation day arrived, she realized that completing the course was an achievement.
“Graduation day was so much fun. I felt it was a big accomplishment. It was good to do the test to see that I really learned the content of the course. It felt complete – the test, the get together and the opportunity to do even more hands on pruning. Then we got our free tools and the graduation certificate. I felt very satisfied that I achieved something,” she said.
The site was beautiful. There was lots of great food and celebration. And the students left empowered with knowledge that they can use in the future in caring for the San Romanoway Orchard or caring for other neighbourhood trees. The training also opened up the door to paid work for a number of the graduates:
- Rosalyn Endlich was hired for a full time summer job caring for the orchard in Downsview Park where she is caring for 200+ fruit trees.
- James Hackman and Saraswathy Jesudasan were given an honorarium for leading the stewardship activities in San Romanoway’s young orchard.
- I hired Lisa Forsyth and James Hackman to help me during a planting day in another community orchard in Scarborough.
The Only Way to Develop Fruit Tree Care Skills Is to Keep Using Them
I loved working with the San Romanoway Dream Team this year and I loved working with last year’s fantastic graduates. Their enthusiasm, focus and energy is inspiring. My hope is that they will keep honing and developing their tree care skills by practicing and using those skills each year, caring for San Romanoway’s young trees and for other trees in the community. My students know that if they ever have any questions or concerns, they can always reach out and ask me. I will always encourage them to continue this important work.
So congratulations to the San Romanoway Dream Team! It’s been such an honour to work with you. Wishing you lots of rewarding fruit tree care adventures in the years to come! Hoping you will keep in touch!
Our thanks to Susan Poizner, Director of Orchard People Fruit Tree Care Consulting and Education, for sharing this story with us.
San Romanoway Tree Tour & Adopt-a-park-tree Launch
Sunday, August 14, 2016 – 2:00p.m. – 4:00p.m.
10 San Romanoway
Toronto, ON M3N 2Y2
(Meet in front of the pergola located in the southeast corner of community garden).
Join us for a hands-on afternoon connecting with trees. Enjoy a guided tree tour at the San Romanoway Towers, followed by a hands-on tree care activity. Sign up to care for a particular tree and put your new skills to use! Come have fun, get yours hands dirty, and remember to wear closed-toed shoes (no sandals)!
Tour Leaders include:
- LEAF Young Urban Forest Leaders: Katherine Berton, Jessi Gai, Saleena Hak, Jessica Serravalle.
- Toronto and Region Conservation: Jessica MacDonald.
- San Romanoway Community Garden Leaders: James and Fabian.
Three Ways to Help Wild Bees in the City
© 2016 Sheila Colla
Can you tell a wild (native) bee from a honey bee? Did you know there’s a difference?
Despite their importance, wild bees face unprecedented threats and urban habitats are proving more and more important for their populations.
In addition to their significant role in food security, bees — particularly the wild ones — are important pollinators of our native plants, including trees. Many of our native plants have co-evolved with certain wild bee species and rely on them to reproduce. But Ontario’s bee populations are declining.
Luckily, there are simple things we can do in our yards to support wild bees in the city! Here are three ways to get started:
1. Design your garden with wild bees in mind: ensure there is a continuous succession of nectar- and pollen-producing plants flowering from spring through fall. Plant different flower colours, shapes and heights. Native bees are generally attracted to white, yellow, blue and purple flowers.
2. Keep existing habitat in your yard: in other words “let it bee”. Leave dead stems on plants in fall so solitary bees can use them as nesting habitat. Where possible, leave cavities in the ground (left by rodents) or in trees for our only wild social bees (bumblebees) to nest in. These cavities also provide a good place for bees to hide during storms.
3. Avoid buying plants that have been pre-treated with synthetic pesticides: neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides can be very harmful to bees. Ask your nursery or plant supplier to confirm their plants are neonicotinoid-free.
If you live in Ajax, Toronto, or York Region, you can purchase a Native Bee Garden Kit through LEAF to easily create bee-friendly habitat in your yard! The kits contain a variety native shrubs and perennials that support wild bees, and come with garden plans to assist you with design and planting. LEAF also offers a variety of native trees and shrubs that support native bees through the Backyard Tree Planting Program.
To learn more about the threats our wild bees are facing and the simple things you can do to help, join us on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at the North York Civic Centre for a presentation from native pollinator expert Sheila Colla, Ph.D. Event details and registration here.
TRCA has partnered with LEAF to offer additional subsidies on native trees and Edible Garden Kits for homes in the Black Creek SNAP program area. Many of these species can provide vital habitat for wild bees in the city. Click here for a map and more information about this project!
Melissa Williams is the Program Manager at LEAF – Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests. LEAF is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest that offers many planting, education and stewardship programs across Ajax, Mississauga, Toronto and York Region.
FREE Basement Flooding Prevention Workshop
Join us to learn about what you can do to help prevent basement flooding in your home!
- Protect your home and belongings
- Save money on insurance
- Learn about programs that can help you pay for upgrades
Guest expert Pete Karageorgos, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), will discuss how to mitigate this risk and answer your questions.
Pete has over 20 years of experience in the insurance industry and is currently Director, Industry and Consumer Relations, Ontario at the IBC.
The City of Toronto staff will also provide information about the City’s Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program and Mandatory Downspout Disconnection Program.
This workshop is presented by Harvest the Rain, a water and energy conservation program designed to save you money! For more information about this workshop or the program, call your Program Advisor at 416-845-7532 or email email@example.com.
About Caledon SNAP
The Caledon SNAP is located in a mature neighbourhood in Bolton, Caledon’s major urban centre, within the Humber River watershed. Located in west Bolton, the neighbourhood is west of the historic core and is comprised mostly of residential properties, with pockets of commercial and institutional development. The neighbourhood is also comprised of parks, schools, green spaces and trails, and is transversed by Jaffrey’s Creek, a tributary of the Humber River. The local demographic is a mix of young to middle-aged families and older couples ranging in cultural diversity.
This is one of six SNAPs happening across the GTA, and will focus on working with the community to achieve measurable environmental and neighbourhood improvement. Critical municipal priorities, neighbourhood-specific issues and multiple watershed and regional objectives will be addressed across a range of theme areas including:
• Long-standing drainage and erosion issues in Jaffrey’s Creek and surrounding catchment;
• Improved water balance and Low Impact Development (LID);
• Watershed regeneration;
• Regional urban forest and public health priorities;
• Energy consumption ‘hot spots’; and,
• Increase active transportation.
This project is being led by the Town of Caledon, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Region of Peel, working closely with neighbourhood residents and businesses. The SNAP will be an on-the-ground demonstration of the Town’s Community Climate Change Action Plan.
Do you live or work in this neighbourhood?
We want to get local residents and businesses involved in developing the Caledon SNAP. Keep an eye out for us at your local events! To get onto our mailing list, contact:
Coordinator, SNAP Projects
416.661.6600 ext. 5778
Shannon Leigh Carto
Climate Change Specialist, Energy and Environment, Town of Caledon
905.584.2272 ext. 4022
Subscribe to our mailing list
Fill in the form below to receive emails about SNAP, managed by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA). You will be able to unsubscribe at any time by using the link at the bottom of every email, or by contacting Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) at firstname.lastname@example.org, 416.661.6600, or by mailing 5 Shoreham Drive, Toronto, ON M3N 1S4.