Among the food security movement there has been a lot of people talking about planting vegetables instead of flowers in parks and such but I never thought those were such great ideas because they take so much work. I have for a long time thought that public fruit trees were a much better idea because they require a lot less ongoing maintenance If you look around the region you can often find old apple trees abandoned years ago. I know of some in Cuthbert Holmes Park and some in East Sooke Park. The apples are still good and the trees have been ignored for decades.
There is now a proposal to create two community orchards in Victoria. One in Vic West at Banfield Park and the other in Fernwood at the Fernwood Community Centre. There will be a meeting this evening at the Vic West YMCA to discuss the one for Banfield Park.
I really like the idea of public orchards. There are so many people these days that have never eaten fruit from a tree and therefore have no idea what it should taste like. It is quite possible for us to produce a lot more food locally and have us a community connect again with the fruit we eat. I love apricots but the ones I can buy in the stores are a waste of money, only those straight from the tree are worth eating. I rarely can find apples in the stores that match the ones picked freshly from the tree.
A community orchard is not a short term idea, it will take time for the trees to reach maturity. It is for that reason I think it is important that both community associations consider tree fruits that require very little maintenance.
It is important to also only consider trees that thrive in our climate. This rules out peaches and apricots, they are very borderline in the CRD. Cherries may grow well here but birds clean out trees very fast and we have too much danger of rain just as they are ripening as well would see western cherry fruit fly infestations. I think it is also important that most stone fruits not be considered because such soft fruits tend to have the whole tree ripen at once and require the fruit to be picked and processed during a narrow window.
Best would be to stick to apples, pears and various nuts. Apples have long proven they can grow here without any help of us humans. Within a small community orchard it is possible to plant numerous different varieties of apples to ensure there is a constant harvest of fruit from the end of July to early November.
I would ideally like to see apple trees planted at every school in the CRD, enough to ensure that for the first two months of each school year there are abundant apples for everyone in the school. Each youth should be able to grow up eating apples straight from the tree everyday in the fall. It is important from an early age to connect kids to where food comes from. If these community orchards work well, I hope the idea spreads.