Zenger Farm classes helps folks get ready to grow

See what we found out when we checked in on a class about “Fruit Tree Pruning” – and find out what other classes are also in store for backyard farmers …

Arborist John Iott draws an illustration while he gives his students background information, before taking them out to demonstrate fruit tree pruning in his Zenger Farm class.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Portland’s model urban agricultural center, Zenger Farm, does more than just provide growing plots for neighbors, and learning experiences for children. As more people are finding out, they also offer a wide variety of adult classes on topics from maintaining fruit trees, to keeping chickens.

We audited the “Hands-On Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop” with John Iott not long ago, to see for ourselves how these classes are taught.

During his two-hour Saturday morning presentation, Iott taught the basics of fruit tree pruning, and offered hands-on skills training in the diverse orchard to the nine people who attended.

Iott started his workshop in the farmhouse “kitchen” – set up as a classroom – where he covered the basics.

“First, let’s start by describing stone fruits,” Iott instructed. “Stone fruits are those fruits with a big pit in the middle – like plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, and cherries. In our part of the world, we want these to bloom later, as they are susceptible to frost.”

Iott’s distributes many handouts during the classroom part of his workshop, and shares the resources he finds most valuable.

Before growing season begins, Iott said, “You want to take out the deadwood. That’s the dead and the diseased parts of a tree. Stone fruit trees can get diseases like bacterial cankers.”

But, the bottom line of pruning, Iott continued, is that “if you want fruit on your trees, you’ve got to prune.”

Once fruit starts growing, the arborist said, growers need to start thinning their trees. “Thinning is the act of pulling off or hand-pruning fruit from the tree, in order to have better fruit quality.”

Iott said that fruit trees – especially apples, peaches, pears, and sometimes plums – produce more fruit than they can sustain, both physically and nutritionally. “Not thinning fruit has negative effects like broken limbs, small disappointing fruit – and with apples, reversion back to biannual bearing. Fruit thinning is selecting the choice fruit in controlled quantities, to maximize fruit size and quality.”

Out in the Zenger Farm orchard, Iott shows how to prune stone fruit trees; and then gives class members the opportunity to get some hands-on training.

After the didactic portion of his presentation, the class headed out to the Zenger Farm orchard for pruning demonstrations. Then, because of the purposely small class sizes, attendees get one-on-one instruction as they learn to prune fruit trees.

Many classes coming up for adults
If you’d like to learn more about backyard farming, check out the many classes offered at Zenger Farm. They’re taught by experts in their respective fields. And, they also provide hands-on training.

Here are some of the upcoming class topics:

  • Introduction to Backyard Beekeeping
  • Worm Composting (Family Friendly)
  • Real Coq au Vin (Chicken slaughter and butcher), with Portland Meat Collective
  • Easy Home Curing with Portland Meat Collective
  • Worm Composting (Family Friendly)
  • Pie Baking

> We list Zenger Farm classes by date, with details, in our Community Calendar: CLICK HERE to view it.

While there is a fee for the classes – attendees agree it’s modest, for what they learn – Zenger Farm has a Scholarship Program to provide financial aid for those who qualify.

Zenger Farm is located at 11741 SE Foster Road. To learn more, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or call (503) 282-4245.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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