‘Fruit in trees’ project a double whammy for the community

A vision to see an orchard in every Selwyn District primary school is blossoming says Dave Fitzjohn, project manager for Lincoln Envirotown (LET).

The ‘fruit trees in schools’ initiative is the brainchild of Alan Peacock of Independent Signs Ltd.

Mr Peacock first had the idea after watching a Campbell Live show, which had focussed on Auckland school children, going to school without adequate lunches. Mr Peacock was inspired to come up with a plan, which would see primary schools in the Selwyn District provided with ten fruit trees or plants a year for five years.

Lincoln Envirotown helped get the project off the ground by liaising with the Primary schools and considering the requirements of each school. The organisation also took on the role of administrator for the project. Mr Peacock and Independent Signs ensured other businesses got on board to provide sponsorship of the trees.

“Another group which have been instrumental to the project is Outdoor Space. They have visited each school to talk the children, who were encouraged to produce planting plans for trees in their grounds,” says Mr Fitzjohn.

Local business Sicon has also played a huge part in the success of the project, by providing plant maintenance over the five-year period, with a big emphasis on pupil involvement, says Mr Fitzjohn.

The project itself is a ‘double whammy’ teaching young kiwi kids valuable life skills while giving them access to fresh and healthy fruit. Mr Fitzjohn says the biggest benefit of ‘fruit trees in schools’ is that by the time the kids have left school, they will have experienced the joy of picking and eating their own produce and the experience and skills can be transferred into adult life.

The project has been more successful than any of those involved initially expected, with 200 trees planted last winter, after the initial offering in 2015. Over the five years of the project, it is expected more than 1000 trees and plants will be added to local Selwyn schools.

Mr Fitzjohn says, as with anything there has been lessons learnt along the way, mainly relating to ordering of trees and ensuring the right administrative processes are in place. “We have found when everyone involved is working to a common goal, things run pretty smoothly. The key to success has been and enthusiasm, as well as ensuring we are constantly communicating with all those involved. Good communication channels make sure, even when there are delays, everyone is informed,” he says.

LET, has garnered a real reputation as a leader in fostering a community-owned process for sustainability in Lincoln and has become a role model for other communities wanting to progress towards environmental sustainability.

Mr Fitzjohn says to achieve its objectives it works in partnership with a myriad of organisations to find solutions to projected growth and associated environmental issues. They have a close working relationship with the Selwyn District Council, Lincoln University, Landcare Research, Waihora Ellesmere Trust, Environment Canterbury, Plant & Food Research, as well as, local schools and businesses.

The ‘fruit trees in schools’ is just one of many projects LET is involved in but in many ways Mr Fitzjohn says it is one of the most rewarding. “Our vision is for environmental sustainability for the district and what better way to kick start this than by starting in schools.”

The impact of LET has been influential on changing the attitudes of individuals and businesses towards the idea of environmental sustainability in a rapidly expanding township.

Another LET initiative which has provided exceptional results has been the establishment of a very successful community garden. Mr Fitzjohn says the community support for the garden is amazing. “We recently introduced a cooking course, which demonstrates recipes using the vegetables grown in the garden. Cooking something amazing from your own produce is something we can all aspire to,” he says.

The organisation also runs sustainable living courses, Zero waste street challenges, community water quality testing of streams and encourage local land developers to use sustainability principles and Responsible Business Awards. They recently introduced time-banking in Selwyn, which is a positive way of trading skills for the community.

Envirotown is a strong community-led project, focused on creating positive change and collaboration, with local people taking action and getting things done.

For further information on this story and other services please visit http://www.lincolnenvirotown.org.nz/

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