School Nut Tree Planting Project

SCHOOL NUT TREES:  On the sunny, snowy, leap-year days of February, 2012, eleven young hazelnut trees were welcomed into the Earth at our local Pender Island elementary school!  This is a Project that requires patience – a gift for a brighter future, when we will once again do more community protein and starch growing.  This initiative involved a local food educational process at the school and in our community, and then here’s what we did (see some pictures!), with the help of over 40 great kids and grown-ups.

The day before (February 28) we had school and community volunteers pretty busy, with hole digging, soil moving and mounding, planting, and then fencing of the first 8 hazelnut trees.  My favourite image from this sunny day was about 10 young home schoolers and another 10 Grade 8 students, swarming with shovels over a 7-yard pile of good garden soil.  We needed this soil to fill some major holes that we dug, to give our community nut trees a good start at the edges of a school playing field dominated by clay.

Then on February 29, we organized a ceremony, to plant the remaining 3 hazelnut trees, and to honour everyone who supported this project.  We were accompanied by snow and rain, and lots of laughs from the kids as they got wet and dirty and tried to climb under the circles of wire fencing that we had ready (to protect the young trees from deer).  By the way, we have two young walnut trees left over, available for free (as long as you can accommodate a tree that can grow to 40 feet in height and width and affect everything around it – email us).

Here are are the wonderful Pender people (over 40 of them!) and supporting groups to whom PCT is so grateful, for making this School Nut Tree Project possible:

* the Pender School,  Principal Lyall Ruelhen, Teachers Julie Johnston, Bryce Woollcombe, Colleen Fitz-Gerald, and their Grade 8 students and Spring Leaves Home Learners (especially Arthur and Sanae Kikuchi and their 5 kids, who came early and stayed late);

* volunteer tree planting experts and labourers Colin McLarty, Mike Jones, Roz Kempe, Jean Moore, Jennifer Gee, Tania Honan, Margot Venton, Sandor Csepregi, and Gary Gee, with initial help from Landscape Architect Derek Masselink;

* the Pender Community Farmland Project,  Nu-To-Yu, and Local Trust Committees (Gary Steeves), as well as our local Home Hardware, Braedon’s Big Digem, and GreenAngels (David Howe and Ina Timmer);

* the Capital Regional District (Ken Hancock) for a CRD Grant-in-Aid,  and Vancity Credit Union for a Community Grant;

* Gayle and Ray Meade of Mission Hill Farms (near Courtenay), for supplying us with the 11 young hazelnut trees we’ve planted, and also 2 walnut trees still looking for a community home (contact Gayle at 250-338-4077 or if you’d like nut trees too!).

We plant these first community hazelnut trees as an affirmation and a fun positive step towards more local food growing on Pender, in particular the proteins that we need each day just as much as our fruits and veggies.  The future is brighter when we come together on projects like this, to create a community that is more connected, resilient, and Earth-friendly!

Would you like to support more community nut trees on Pender?  For example, have you taken an airflight for which you’d like to give a local carbon offset?  For a $50 donation to the non-profit Pender Community Transition Society (c/o 6612 Harbour Hill Drive, Pender Island, BC, V0N 2M1), you can support the planting of nut trees at another great community location.  For example, we have two young walnut trees that we want to plant next (at a suitably open location), and we need more fencing, soil, and volunteer help to accomplish this.

But wait, why are we doing all this?  There are some great initiatives now developing in our community, for Penderites to begin growing more than the current 5% or so of the vegetables and fruit we need each day (e.g. see Food Growing on our home page).  This is essential for Pender food security, because peak oil and climate change mean that apples from New Zealand and broccoli from water-starved California aren’t going to be available the same way in future.

But for the same reasons, it’s equally crucial for Pender (and all communities) to begin growing more of the essential proteins and starches which are a much greater part of our daily calories.  We’re talking about growing more nut trees, dried beans, wheat, oats, potatoes and other starches, and (if you’re not vegetarian) more  island-raised eggs, chickens, lamb, etc.  See PCT’s January, 2013 Poultry Raising Workshop.  The current question is – what forms of protein and starch production are most necessary and doable for Pender, and how do our local farmers, growers, “eaters”,  and community groups, and best cooperate to get there?

PCT has chosen to start with some community nut tree planting (e.g. on Pender community, residential, and even business properties).  Here’s more info about the highly successful nut tree projects of Transition Salt Spring (text also below) and Transition Totnes in the UK.

Then there’s the broader issue of other protein and starch growing initiatives that could really help build Pender food security and sovereignty (e.g. community growing of beans and other edible seeds, potatoes, grains, cereals, and more).  Plus we need to talk about where animal protein sources fit in with a resilient and sustainable Pender future.  Please  email if you’re interested in helping us go forward, or finding out more!