The low-hanging fruit?

If you’ve been to Julian, you’ll know we are associated with one thing above all else:  apples.  Orchards, apple pie, the annual Apple Days celebrations, apple-themed gifts in the shops, etc.

Say Julian–think apples.

And every day in our cafeteria we serve apples from Oregon and Washington State, even when Julian apples are in season.

This is one of a million ways in which our food systems are disconnected. It happens all around the world, to the detriment of our planet (all that transportation!) and our palate (stored and shipped food is often inferior, for obvious reasons.)

Naturally, in my role as Farm to School planning grant director, this is one of the first things I’m tackling.  And as simple as it sounds—swap out one apple vendor for another—it’s really very complicated, in ways that you can only appreciate when you dive into the specifics of the ways things are, as I’ve been doing.

Big thought for the day: systemic change is hard.

But not hopeless.  We are working away diligently on the ways things could be by investigating how to get local apples and pears onto our school lunch menu.

Until then, we’re going to do one better:  plant apple trees on our campus.

Yesterday the organizer of the newly-formed Julian Apple Growers Association, Teak Nichols, came by school to spend the afternoon putting bare root trees in the ground with our Garden Ambassadors.  Raised here in Julian, Teak has a passion for preserving the collective knowledge base, economic importance and cultural resource of apples.  So we worked with a handful of kids to enlarge our small orchard.  He’ll be back to teach pruning, and I imagine many other things as we connect his group with our efforts at school.

Teak had just asked a question like, “Who wants to plant the Fuji?”  Um, is the enthusiasm of these kids coming across?

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Under Teak’s instruction, the kids dug the holes, properly sited the trees, filled them in, watered, staked, labeled and wrapped sunburn protection around the trunks.  (Notice their official gear.  The shirts were meant for formal occasions, but these kids love any excuse to put on their ambassador shirts.)

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Beautiful weather, outdoor education, the promise of fruit, excited kids….I’m not great at containing my excitement.

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

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Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries