Newly-planted Learning Garden orchard to educate and nourish

It’s not often an 80-tree orchard is established in SE Portland. Here’s your chance to see how – and why – these trees now grow in Woodstock …

Katherine Drotos (far right) helps kids learn about some of the trees planted at the Learning Garden.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although groups like Friends of Trees help neighbors plant trees along rights-of-way and in yards throughout the city, no one with whom we’ve spoken can remember the last time an 80-tree orchard was established in SE Portland.

“Over the weekend, we’ve planted eighty fruitful trees and shrubs,” explains Cem Akin, Director of the non-profit Fruit Tree Planting Foundation.

Chad Honl (on left) explains to students how the ground for trees – like the Asian pear tree they’re about to plant – needs to be prepared. “It’s more than digging a hole and dropping it in.”

Students learn, then plant trees
Folks from the foundation didn’t plant all of its trees – two remained in buckets – as about thirty 7th graders arrived at the site.

“Today’s activity will help bond the students with the orchard,” Katherine Drotos, an educator with the foundation, tells us. “When they actually plant trees, and then tend them, they feel more personally connected to the trees.”

Before they do their planting, the class tours the orchard. Stopping at each variety of the newly-planted trees, a student reads a “hint card” relating to the identity of tree or fruit-bearing bush, before the kids guess what it is.

Then, educators ask the students to list reasons why it is a good idea to plant and care for trees. Their responses: Shelter for animals, creating oxygen, providing food, and being a naturally-renewable raw material for pulp products.

Cem Akin, director of the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, gets a hand from students Alana Clouser and Monique Key as they plant an Asian pear tree.

Orchard to serve students of many schools
As they start planting, Drotos reveals, “We chose the Learning Garden, here on SE 60th Avenue, because it is wonderful site that serves many area schools. It meets the criteria of our organization: To donate a fruit tree orchard that serves students from a wide geographic area by providing improved nutrition – and educational opportunities to learn about sustainability and the environment.”

It wasn’t all work. After the tree planting, a foundation educator teaches the kids about the benefits of fruit in their diet. Both natural and prepared fruit snacks were gobbled up by the kids.

Within a couple of years, the arbor educators say, these kids will start enjoying the fruits of these trees.

“I learned what a lot of trees are today,” Andrew Nguyen tells us. “By looking at them, I can now figure out what kind of tree it is. It is good to learn about nature.”

As the lesson ended, Akin declares, “The manufacturer of an organic fruit snack called ‘Fruitabu’ funded the orchard planting.”

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© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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