Inside Look: How Community Nonprofits are using the Arbor Day Foundation Volunteer Center

When The Minnesota Project staff received a phone call from a local fruit tree owner in October 2008 with an excessive amount of apples, they knew they had been presented with an opportunity. As they took a look around their community, they began to grasp how much unpicked and fallen fruit from both orchards and backApplesyards was going to waste. The organization began to take a closer look at how they could distribute this fruit to meet community needs.

Five years later, the Fruits of the City program matched 160 fruit tree owners and 16 orchards with groups of trained volunteers who pick the un-wanted, un-harvested fruit. These volunteers then deliver the fruit to local food shelves, which are often unable to access fresh produce.

The Minnesota Project is using the Arbor Day Foundation Volunteer Center  to recruit volunteers for the Fruits of the City program.

Jared Walhowe, Gleaning Manager, is pleased with how the project has grown. “Despite last year’s drought, our volunteers collected a record of 40,000 pounds of apples and pears, which we then distributed to 31 food shelves and 3 food banks.”

Edible (& Still Beautiful) Landscaping

What is “edible landscaping”? Defined as an “integration of food-producing plants within an ornamental or decorative setting,” edible landscaping can create a productive, beautiful yard that nourishes body and soul.

Why incorporate food-producing plants in your yard?

-As “local” as it gets: you know exactly where your food comes from, and have control peachesover any pesticides or sprays that are used. We all can agree that food grown in your own backyard tastes so much better than produce picked before its prime and shipped thousands of miles. Additionally, it’s a great way to supply yourself with fruits or veggies that may not ship well or are hard to find or expensive to buy in grocery stores.

-Money savings: growing your own fruit trees and nut trees, as well as vegetable and herb plants, can save major bucks on your grocery bill—a family of four can save $1,000 a year by devoting just 100 square feet of the yard to planting edibles, says Lindsey Mann, owner of Sustenance Design in Decatur, Ga. What’s more, an edible landscape can “begin reversing the cash flow of a grass lawn not only within the first year, but within the first few months,” according to Mann. The rate of return will increase through the years once the start-up costs have been paid and the fruit trees mature and start producing. Why not eat your yard instead of it eating at your pocketbook?

-Added beauty: many fruit and nut trees can be simply spectacular additions to a yard with their profusions of blooms or lovely autumn color. Apples, apricots, cherries, crabapples, peaches, pears, plums, quince, serviceberry and almonds are flowering favorites, while blueberries, crabapples, persimmon and serviceberry shine with their fall foliage.

almonds-Share the wealth: you might even get to the point where you have more than you can even eat! Sharing your excess fruit, nuts, veggies or herbs with neighbors is always a nice gesture or a great way to welcome a new neighbor to the block. You could even share your bounties with a local food bank, for which fresh, local produce is often in short supply.

-Beneficial effects of nature and learning opportunities: let’s not forget the immense personal satisfaction you get knowing you grew your own food, as well as the opportunity to get outside more and tend your plants (an activity repeatedly shown to be a health booster and stress-reducer). Not to mention what educational gold mine it could be for children: both learning about natural, scientific processes and healthy eating habits.

However, it is important to be realistic and know that it may be wise to start out small. Rosalind Creasy, an edible landscaping expert, advises:

“Small and simple means you can easily maintain what you’ve started. Temper enthusiasm with the knowledge that many edible plants not only need maintenance (mulching, watering, weeding, feeding, and pruning), but also take effort in the form of harvesting and cooking- and preserving a large harvest. Choose dwarf fruit trees over standard-size trees and select fruit varieties that spread the harvest over many months.”

Some great suggestions for planting based on all the spaces you have (or don’t) from Ohio and Purdue Extension offices:

-Get creative with substitutions! Where you might have planted a shade tree, plant a fruit tree. Where you need a deciduous shrub, plant currants or hazelnuts. Where you have always had chrysanthemums, plant bachelor’s buttons—you can eat them.

-Strawberries and shorter herbs are a great choice for low ground cover (plant strawberries in/onto a barrel if you’re lacking more in horizontal space).

-Need to keep it somewhat low to the ground but still have some room to grow upwards? Plant blackberries (erect), blueberries, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, quince, raspberries, serviceberry—these are all shrubs that grow 3-8 feet in height.

-Have enough space for something 8-15 feet? Try dwarf and semi-dwarf apples; dwarf apricots, cherries(tart), peaches, European pears and plums; filberts, paw paw, quince and serviceberry.

-For space allowing for 15-30 foot trees, great choices include standard-sized apples, cherries, crabapples, pears, or serviceberry.

-Tons of space? Butternuts, Chestnuts (Chinese), Hickories, Persimmon, Black Walnuts and Persian Walnuts will reach over 30 feet in height.

(Still having a hard time choosing? The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Wizard is a free online guide to help you quickly and easily select a fruit or nut tree).

Creasy sums it up best here:

“Certainly, an edible landscape is one of the most rewarding yards one can have. You’ll be able to grow tasty treats that can’t be bought for love or money, often with enough to share with friends and neighbors. An edible landscape is the only form of gardening that truly nurtures all the senses.”

Do you practice edible landscaping? What food-bearing plants do you grow and what would you like to start growing? Share in the comments!

Happy planting (and eating!)

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New How-To Guide for Sustainable Landscapes on College Campuses

When the topic of sustainability comes up on college and university campuses, the conversation often shifts to the indoors, such as, recycling or energy
Tree Campus USA conservation.  However, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) took another big step in acknowledging the importance of the outdoors in a campus sustainability plan by releasing the How-To Guide, “Promoting Sustainable Campus Landscapes.”

The publication, created in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, is intended for a diverse audience including students, grounds and landscape staff, campus landscape architects, campus facilities management, sustainability officers, and campus environmental or sustainability committees. This audience includes both non-technical and technical individuals – anyone on campus interested in developing and delivering landscape programs to the public and who might stand to benefit from guidance on communications, events, and engaging others.

“I can unequivocally say that this guide is a ‘must have’ instructional tool that will be beneficial for any person, group or organization that values the role of trees and natural systems and views them as integral elements for sustainable campus landscapes,” shared Joe Jackson, past president for the Professional Grounds Management Society.

We are excited to note that Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA program manager, Mary Sweeney, played a vital role in the creation of this guide.

Download your copy of the guide today.

World Water Week: Trees Play a Significant Role

Mountain StreamTo celebrate World Water Week, organized by the Stockholm Water Institute, let’s talk trees and H₂0!

Trees and clean water go hand in hand. Trees—large rainforests and deciduous forests in particular—can play a significant role in the preservation, purification, and even production of this precious resource.

Forests help to:

-Filter and purify water

Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that supply an estimated 75 percent of usable water globally… (nearly 2/3 of the water supply in the U.S.) One study estimates the value of water regulation and supply at $2.3 trillion globally.CIFOR

“Trees and forests improve stream quality and watershed health by decreasing the amount of storm water runoff and pollutants that reach local waters. They take up nutrients and pollutants from soils and water through their roots, and transform them into less harmful substances. Forests also maintain high water quality by minimizing soil erosion and reducing sediment.” -CIFOR

In the city of Victoria in the province of British Columbia, their forested watershed is so effective at purifying their drinking water, the only treatment they do is filtering for course debris and passing the water under a UV light. No chemicals are added to purify the water.” -CIFOR

-Manage stormwater and reduce severity of drought

“(Trees) allow rain water to percolate into the soil rather than rushing off carrying with it oil, metal particles and other pollutants. Below ground, roots hold the soil in place and absorb water that will eventually be released into the atmosphere by transpiration.” –Tree City USA Bulletin #55: How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff

Forests act as giant sponges, soaking up rainfall during wet seasons and slowly releasing it during times of drought.” -CIFOR

“(Forests) could also help us to adapt to a changing climate and combat drought by influencing rainfall patterns…Tropical forests contribute to regulating river flows both during dry seasons and high rainfall events, thereby minimizing risks related to water scarcity and floods.” -CIFOR

-Maintain rainfall levels throughout the world

Air passing over vegetation produces about twice as much rain as that blowing across sparsely covered ground…In some cases these forests increased rainfall thousands of kilometers away.” –Leeds University study

A vast forest such as the Amazon is able to pump significant amounts of water into the atmosphere, promoting cloud formation and movement, even thousands of kilometers away…impacting rainfall patterns in other parts of the world.” -CIFOR

‘By better understanding this process, we may, one day, be able to strategically plant trees that will bring rain to regions that need it most,’ David Ellison from the Institute for World Economics said.” –CIFOR

Your Part

What can you do today?

Taking care of our earth’s major tree resources will play an ever-increasing role in the worldwide effort to maintain our water supply.

Every little bit helps—pure, clean water can start with you.

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