Friday, May 18, 2012

A Tree Grows in Gaston Park...and Slocan Park...and Falaise Park

March 27 2012: Damage to fruit tree in Gaston Park. Photo credit: Crecien Bencio.

If organic food was affordable and accessible, we could all buy it, eat it, and be a lot healthier.  As we all know, however, organic food is more costly and Vancouver living isn’t cheap.  Rent, childcare, small pensions, low wages--the list of concerns is long. At the Food Security Institute, one of our solutions to accessible organic food has been to plant a tree.  Many trees, actually.  

A simple idea: Plant fruit trees in public places.  Care for them.  One day they’ll produce free food. Apples, persimmons, quinces, pears, figs, and more.  In 2006, we partnered with Renfrew Park Community Centre and a seniors’ Tai Chi group to plant fruit saplings in Slocan Park.  The experiment was new to the Park Board and there were many concerns around potential neglect or the mess caused by uneaten fruit. But the idea has gained acceptance and momentum.  In 2010, Park Board chose another local park (Falaise) as the perfect spot for a 25 tree orchard!

Because of vandalism, we have had to replace many Slocan trees over the years.  Trunks snapped in half, kicked over, branches torn off.  Just a few days before the big Harvest Fair in 2011, we found one of the three surviving original trees--kicked over and dead. This damage is discouraging and takes free food from the whole community, but with help from dedicated volunteers (mostly local seniors), we replace trees when we have the resources.  

Seniors Tai Chi group replanting a 
persimmon tree in Slocan Park.
(Spring 2011)

In 2011, Collingwood Neighbourhood House celebrated its 25th Anniversary by planting 11 fruit trees in Gaston Park.  The trees represented diverse cultures--quince, Asian pear, Saskatoon berry, Italian prune plum, and more.  By spring 2012, someone had snapped trunks and branches off the trees.  This was shocking and more than a little odd.  Who would do such a thing?  

We later learned that the person was trying to help increase yields breaking off branches and sticking them in the ground nearby to create “more” pollinating trees.  Unfortunately, this action was based on a misunderstanding of fruit tree genetics, propagation techniques, and pollination.  Do not try this at home.  It will not work at all.  

Still, this reminded us that many people are interested in fruit growing and genuinely want to help.  Want to get involved?  We want to meet you!  See someone vandalizing a tree?  Call 911.  Let’s make sure our tree care is coordinated and informed, and get some free organic food growing in Renfrew Collingwood.    

Check back for updated information about the fruit growing workshop at the Norquay Community Learning Orchard (2732 Horley St.), or our many canning and gardening workshops.  Contact 604.435.0323 or

Fruit trees in Falaise Park, spring 2012. Photo credit: Terry Walton.

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