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Growing fruit trees from your computer

Cedar Hills Enrichment Center needs online votes to win free orchard

POSTED: April 29, 2011 1:00 a.m.

With just a click of a button on your computer's mouse, you could help turn empty acreage into a thriving orchard.

Cedar Hill Enrichment Center, which is on the Gainesville border of Forsyth County, is one of 120 competitors nationwide vying for the opportunity to win a free orchard of fruit trees from Edy's Fruit Bars' "Communities Take Root" program.

The goal of the program is to help communities become greener and healthier, by helping to establish public fruit orchards. Twenty winners will be selected, based on which group has the most online votes.

Originally, the center's 17-acre property was a working dairy goat farm.

"What we've started doing is taking down the fences and reclaiming the pasture land," said Kat Stratton, the center's director.

"We have to mow all that. It's beautiful to look at, but you're wasting gas, it pollutes the air and you've used someone's time to do it.

With that in mind, she began looking into the possibility of planting a fruit orchard.

Why fruit trees?

"Fruit trees serve a dual purpose. You'd have the trees, but then you'd also have food," Stratton said.

"It can be used for our retreats and to also provide food for our Fresh Green Friday dinners that we have once a month. Those dinners are all about eating locally and eating what's in season."

Cedar Hill was founded in 1995 by June Racicot and Kathyrn Cliatt, nuns with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The sisterhood is an international congregation of more than 700 women who have committed themselves to "preaching the word of God, the formation of a community centered on faith, and ministry to further the values of the gospel.

"They came to this county because their was a high concentration of rural poor and few Catholics. They came to this community asking, ‘What is the need,'" said Stratton, who is an associate of the Adrian Dominican Sisters organization.

"They helped start 9 nonprofits (including United Way of Forsyth County), this being the ninth one."

Today, the center is home to a meditative, walking labyrinth and summer eco-camps for children and reflective retreats.

The center's demonstration gardens also provide a project for the Forsyth County
Master Gardeners.

Because Cedar Hill strives to be environmentally friendly, Stratton says they want an orchard that can be maintained without the use of chemicals.

"Some of the master gardeners did some research, and they came up with different kinds of things," Stratton said.

"Peach trees have to be sprayed, so those are out, but there are different kinds of grapes, apples and pears that will do well. Even kiwi."

The orchard could serve as a hands-on classroom of sorts.

"There's a whole generation of people who have lost the skills of canning and preserving fruit," Stratton said.

"So the orchard would help produce food, but it would also help with some of the re-skilling classes, like canning, that we see a need for in this area."

"We see this as an opportunity to educate the community to show them what they can do at home to take the chemicals out of their gardening and how to preserve their food.

"It will be a place for them to come here to learn."

 



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