Earlier this month, on a warm and windy Sunday morning, a few families gathered at a public orchard they didn’t even know existed just a few weeks prior. “This orchard was planted 12 years ago by 125 kindergarteners and a few TreeFolks staff,” began Scott Harris, former TreeFolks E.D., still our go-to guy for fruit tree expertise. The family orchard workshop was organized by Rocio Villalobos of Campfire USA Balcones (who translated for the Spanish speakers among the group) and Austin Neal (TreeFolks Board of Directors and Education Committee Chair) to introduce the community orchard to families whose children participate in Campfire USA.
The families heard about the history of the orchard at Southeast Metropolitan Park (a Travis County park in Del Valle) and then took a tour of the orchard, learning about each of the fruit trees planted there – when the fruit would ripen, whether it could be eaten out of hand or was better for preserving, as well as how to treat potential pest and disease problems. Scott then demonstrated how to mulch the fruit trees and talked about the importance of mulch to protect roots from heat and moisture loss and to protect trunks from string trimmers and other lawn equipment. Then, everyone chipped in and mulched fruit trees.
Afterward, the group gathered under a very large and very old Texas persimmon tree (planted next to a house on the grounds long before there was a formal orchard there) and enjoyed Texas peaches and Texas pecans donated by Wheatsville Co-op. “I enjoyed that it was hands-on and interactive and that there were a lot of opportunities for questions and participation from the workshop participants,” said Rocio when asked what she most enjoyed about the workshop. “We’d like to continue returning to this and other orchards that TreeFolks helped to plant over the last decade or so,” says the current E.D., April Rose.