Leafing a Legacy – Our Food Forest and Orchard now features heritage Apple Trees and a dedication to some very special people

To celebrate Earth Day this past week, the Environmental Center was fortunate to be joined by committed student staff, alumni and community members to do something to give back. And boy did we ever! Following just an hour of work, our team had broadforked and tilthed two of our garden beds, planted new trees outside of the campus garden and installed five heritage apple varieties within the EC’s campus orchard and food forest.

The work was as symbolic as much s it was literal – the apple varieties were gifted to us by the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project and were all hand grafted 100+ year old trees still growing at the Old Fort Heritage Orchard, left over from an experimental orchard planted in the early 1920’s. So now we have trees from the old campus joining us on the “new” campus. This is truly a part of our region’s legacy.

The orchard now stands as a testament to legacy in one other very important way – we were fortunate to be able to name two of our trees after people who have made an incredible difference in their communities. FLC alum, Jim Carver, dedicated a tree to the memory of Della Johnson, a member of the FLC community for 25 years who, in addition to her service to the president, held our collective history. Cynthia Dott and Gary Giannini dedicated a tree in honor of their parents, Nancy and Bob Dott, ”who instilled in us a love and fascination for the natural world, and who practiced planting and nurturing new life whenever they could”. What a beautiful way to honor such incredible people and the legacy that they left.

Here is a little bit of a bio on the apples that will be joining us (and showing up in the dining hall) in the next several years:

hesn003 and hesf007 are both Wealthy: A very cold hardy apple that was introduced in 1868 by a Minnesota Horticulturist. One of its parents is a crabapple and it is a parent to Haralson which speaks to its cold hardy lineage. Excellent dessert (fresh eating) and multi-use apple, picked a few weeks early for cooking. Great in pies and makes pink applesauce. Beautiful fruit ripens in the fall to bright red across the surface. Crisp, very juicy flesh. Refreshing, sprightly, vinous flavor with hint of strawberry. Beautiful, long-lasting pink and white blossoms that make it a good pollinator.

hesz007 Hibernal: An endangered apple. Large in size, yellow skin with red splashes and white dots, flesh is yellow, crisp, and tart. These apples are good for cooking and drying. Origin is thought to be from Russia. Many Russian varieties were imported by the USDA in the late 1800’s for their cold hardy attributes. Ripens late, winter apple.

hesu004 Northwestern Greening: A popular old winter variety most especially excellent in pies. Keeps all winter and improves in storage. Ripens late turning from green to a waxy yellow.

hese002 unknown: we did not test this tree as it looked the same as another tree we did test which is a Virginia Crab; once we see apples on the tree we can confirm

Come out to the campus orchard to learn more about our apples at any point.Little girl planting up an apple tree Dedication Plaques Picnic table_Leaf a Legacy Orchard star

Education’s Role in the Good Life, and the Environmental Center

By Tristan Kraatz, Local Food Security Team and Philosophy Major

Every other Monday night, the FLC philosophy club hosts talks/discussions from different speakers on a wide range of topics which have included “is democracy actually a good way to run a nation?”, and in the most recent meeting “should a goal of education be to guide us toward the good life?”. Quite an interesting way to spend a Monday night in my opinion. And also a good way to frustrate yourself when you don’t find an answer to the question, which happens more often than not in philosophy. You may now be asking “Tristan, that is all well and good, but what does it have to do with the Environmental Center?” Good question reader! And fear not, I will get there! But I must first do what philosophy majors do best, and clarify the issue.

This question is riddled with philosophical baggage, which we phil majors love to unpack. This includes questions like; what actually is “the good life?”, if education should guide us toward the good life, why and how?, and if not, why not? During the discussion/debate, it seemed to me that everyone in the room agreed on this basic point; education’s main goal is to help people increase their understanding of the world and how it works. Where the people in the discussion differed widely, however, was their answer to the questions above. I will not go into all the nitty gritty details of everyone’s view, but instead just tell you what I think (After some more unpacking).

First of all, there are three ways in which education can go about guiding one towards the good life which were pointed out by a friend during the discussion. First, Education can have the good life be a core principle and design curriculum and have teachers be catalysts for guiding the student towards it, or simply say what the good life is and let the student get there themselves. And lastly it can discard the idea that the good life should be a focus at all and simply provide information on different topics. Wow Tristan, this is all very fascinating and worthy of further thought and discussion, but come on man just tell us what you think! Settle down there reader, I’ll give you what you came here for.

I think the good life is having deep, profound relationships with the people in your life, having tools to critically think about issues, and actually getting out there and doing something about those issues. I think education should absolutely play a role in guiding you toward the good life. And I think it should do that by having the teacher design curriculum which gives you tools and motivation to live the good life. Now, this is not exactly how our current system is set up at FLC, however I would claim and be prepared to defend that this is how the Environmental Center is set up. We have a curriculum which identifies issues, gives us the tools to deal with those issues, and healthy ways to develop relationships with our fellow activists along the way. Just one example of this is campus food security, which is an issue I am tackling this semester. The issue is this; there is not a large sustainable local food source on campus, only a small garden (which is sweet anyways) and imported food. The EC is giving me the tools to deal with this problem by educating me about permaculture food forests (which are awesome), and providing a space to actually design and build one on campus! Now if this isn’t living the good life I don’t know what is!

“Quick! Bears! Do Something!”

By Zack Bauer, Local Food Security

It all started with a frantic email. “Someone do something! Bear’s are stalking the campus apartments!” In the wake of fear and paranoia, Rachel Landis and I knew what we had to do. We had to harvest all the apples. You may be asking, “How is collecting some fruit going to solve anything in that situation, except for maybe providing a sweet autumn snack?” The answer…be the bear before the bear can be the bear. Meaning, harvest all the apples near the campus apartments (Mears and Centennial) so that the bears don’t come back looking for more apples. This may seem selfish, taking all the apples for our own human selves and not saving any for our hungry furry neighbors. In reality we are actually saving these bears’ lives. By taking away these bears’ food supply in areas that have heavy human traffic, we are keeping these bears away from close human interactions. This keeps humans safe. It also keeps bears safe because a bear thats too comfortable with humans may become a target for euthanasia from the Colorado Department of Wildlife.

When I mentioned being the bear before the bear can be the bear, I wasn’t kidding. We, being the Local Food Security Initiative at the Environmental Center, take fruit gleaning very seriously. We try to collect the apples as quickly as possible, which includes acting like a bear. This includes climbing into the apple tree, shaking it to produce a hail storm of ripe fruit, collecting the crisp goodies, and leaving.

Our apple dream didn’t end with collecting apples. Being the EC, a non-for-profit who’s ambitions are high and dreams are grand, we needed money. Every year, at the annual Apple Days Festival in early October, the EC teams up with Cream Bean Berry to produce and sell delicious apple pie ice cream and vegan cinnamon apple ice cream as a fundraiser. The Apple Days Festival sadly was canceled this year, for no good reason, other than the fact that there were no apples in Durango (except for next to the Fort Lewis College apartments woot woot!). Even though the festival didn’t happen, the EC still wanted to sell fabulous apple ice cream made in conjunction with the finest artesian ice cream maker, Cream Bean Berry. But where to sell the ice cream?

After lots of brainstorming, including strongly considering selling the ice cream by peddling our EC bike late at night downtown while wearing an apple costume, we decided to sell the ice cream at the FLC Theatre production of “Urinetown”. Being an environmental play, this was the perfect place to have an EC fundraiser. People could eat ice cream and then watch the beautiful collision of the worlds of theatre and environmental activism. Plus, the actor who played Officer Barrel appreciated the after show treats. Very much.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to witness, and lead, the production of a food commodity from start to finish. Its so easy to go to the store to buy ice cream, which is why it is mind blowing to see how many steps it takes to get it there. It all started with harvesting apples to protect bears and people. Then after cutting the apples, making the ice cream, and individually scooping the ice cream into hundreds of cups, you finally have sellable ice cream. Then you have to pull a giant freezer out of your basement, organize a team of ice cream sellers, get all the ice cream up to the theatre, come up with ice cream selling tactics, deal with confusing credit card machines, and so on and so on. Although it was a lot of work, I loved every second of it and learned so much.

With this story, I encourage everyone to think deeply about where their food came from. The production of this food could have had a positive impact on the environment, or a negative one. It is very important to make this comparison because we can make a big difference in our world just through what we choose to eat. I encourage all of you to eat wisely, and to view the world from mother nature’s perspective. And be the bear before the bear is the bear.

Not Just Your Mother’s Garden

By Ian Meier, Local Food Security

In July, I received a notification that there was an opening at the Environmental Center for the position of Assistant Garden Manager in the campus garden plot. At the time, surrounded by an arid desert landscape, it was hard to imagine returning to the irrigated greenery of Fort Lewis. However, weeks later, after the interview and hiring process was complete, I got my first look at where I would be working. Upon stepping foot in the garden, I was immediately struck by the diversity and abundance of plants grown. I was welcomed by beds of kale, chard, tomatoes, peas, garlic, onions, leeks, potatoes, arugula, borage, corn, carrots and squash, just to list a few. It was such a wonderful surprise to see how much could be produced from one quarter-acre plot.

As a student focusing in the field of environmental policy one might assume that I would be well acquainted with one of the Environmental Center’s most impactful ventures. However, like many Fort Lewis students, before accepting this position, I knew very little about the Campus Garden. I had never actually been to the far northeastern corner of campus where the garden and greenhouse are located. This is an issue that comes up quite regularly during our weekly garden meetings and within the Environmental Center. The garden is an incredible resource for Fort Lewis serving as a production site, educational tool, and model for the potential that lies in local sustainable agriculture. In addition, food produced from the garden is sold to Sodexo and incorporated into dining hall meals.

But for me, the campus garden has become so much more than that. At the risk of sounding exceedingly cliche, I must admit that the garden has become a sanctuary and place of comfort to me. The time I spend working in the garden is grounding, it allows me to clear my head and detach from the stresses of school and life. I look forward to my Tuesdays and Thursdays when I get to spend several hours working there. Completing a task that does not involve straining my eyes in the glow of artificial light is a welcome relief. I find myself learning in a different way, noticing aspects of the local landscape I would otherwise be oblivious to. I see mint growing in front of Reed, currants and mulberries on the quads, apples growing near the rim trail and juniper berries in front of Jones hall. My hope is that over time, more students will visit the garden and share in some of the education and comfort I have found there.

Every Thursday from 1-2:30 during college hour, we invite students and community members to join us for our a garden work day. In helping the EC staff you will not only be aiding in the production of healthy, organic and local food but also taking time for yourself to detach and recharge. Whether you send the time planting winter rye, watering garlic or harvesting the season’s best purple kale, I promise you will go into the rest of your day with a clear head space and deeper connection to your local environment.