One of my most vivid memories as a youngster was my mother yelling at us. “You kids get out of those trees, that fruit isn’t ripe yet, your going to end up with a guts ache”. Typically mum was always right and sure enough we would always wake her up in the middle of the night moaning about a sore stomach. I suspect that when the fruit trees in our new school orchard start producing, I will find myself saying the same thing to our students. I have never really figured out why the temptation to pick something before it is ready is so strong, especially when a tummy ache isn’t that much fun and you end up getting in more trouble because of the waste created from the ‘ take one bite then throw the rest away attitude’.
Our journey began by choosing a site and having it fenced off so that the young trees would be protected from balls and other playground activities. It wasn’t long before we realised that the area we had chosen was just a tad overgrown and the rubble that remained after some demolition work would need machine power to remove it before it was suitable for the students to start planting the collection of fruit trees that we had accumulated. Even after the big boys had been in with their machines, it was still no easy task for the students to dig holes in soil that, over the long dry summer had become as hard as concrete. It didn’t take long before the complaining reached peak levels especially on the ‘27degree plus days’ as it was really hard work and it was significantly obvious to me that many of our students had never done a physically demanding days work in their life.
In order to keep interest levels up we did a number of other activities like making fruit and yoghurt smoothies, dehydrating fruit and sampling a variety of imported fruits that I knew most of the students would never have tried. It was a first for me to try dragon fruit and kiwana and probably the last because it was an expensive exercise and in my opinion, $8 for a tasteless piece of fruit is pretty extravagant especially when we are so lucky to be able to eat local in season fruit. I hope our discussions have given the students a really good understanding of why it is important to support our ‘local economy’, ‘eat fresh’ and ‘in season’ and ‘find alternatives’ for the excess fruit that is in season.
This journey is about helping young people to learn and understand all aspects of sustainability, healthy eating options, practical gardening skills and how the simple things in life can reward us for years to come with little to no cost. It was also about engaging them in practical activities in order to learn skills like correct ways to handle tools etc..
Sampling fruit in a variety of forms helped bring an understanding that there is really no reason to come to school via the local diary in order to purchase an early morning sugar buzz on a stick and that natural sugars from fresh fruit provide a much yummier, healthier option to the nasty poison we called processed sugar. Where possible, I think it is really important to constantly reinforce the idea of making healthier lifestyle choices so that we can reduce the variety of health issues already present with many of our young people.
I also like to constant reinforce the issue of economics. Students, particularly those in low decile schools need to realise that growing your own kai and doing something constructive with it when it is ready is a good way to not only feed a large family but a cheap alternative to buying fresh produce from the supermarket.
We also revisited the orchard over at the old school sight and picked what fruit was ready and brought it back to the new school for the staff and other students.
I can’t wait to pick the first piece of fruit from our new school orchard.
P.S The pigs are dead but not forgotten and hopefully we will revisit that era again especially when we will have plenty of fruit scraps to feed them. The one thing I have learnt is that to some extent fruit trees are far easier to keep then pigs especially when I won’t have to do a holiday feeding roster.