School project bearing fruit
VELVA – Members of the Velva FFA have been tending to their own community orchard this summer.
They are looking forward to better days ahead when their trees will bear fruit and when, with the coronavirus pandemic hopefully a bad memory, students might be able to enjoy the produce as part of the school lunch program.
FFA advisor Christine Fannik, an agricultural education instructor at the school, said the land for the orchard was leased to the program for free for the next 45 years by the city of Velva. The FFA chapter obtained a grant from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to start the orchard. Dakota Fence has installed a chain link fence on the land on Central Avenue East, east of the town’s elevator, on the way to Karlsruhe. Lowe’s Garden Center came out and the trees and shrubs were planted in the orchard.
Fannik said there are a variety of fruit trees, including apple, plum, cherry, grapes and honeyberry.
“They aren’t really bearing fruit this year,” said Fannik, so there is nothing for the students to harvest yet. But the students have been watering the trees and maintain the lawn and the space around the orchard.
Fannik said the eventual plan is for students to pick the fruit and donate the produce to local food pantries.
Reagan Hildre, a senior at Velva High School and president of the school’s FFA chapter, said the fruit might eventually be used in the school’s lunch program. If the coronavirus pandemic ends and students get to have their fruit and salad bar back, the community orchard produce will provide students with a wider variety of fruits for lunch.
Students are also getting some valuable experience in tending to the trees and shrubs at the orchard as well as giving something back to the community.