Farmer donates fruit trees to OKC schools
Susan Bergen knows a thing or two about fresh fruit. As the owner of PeachCrest Farms in Stratford, Bergen has been supplying fresh produce to schools across Oklahoma through the statewide Farm to School program since 2008. This month, Bergen and PeachCrest Farms, in conjunction with OKC Beautiful, give students a new place to reach for fresh fruit with the donation of apple and pear trees to Oklahoma City metro schools.
PeachCrest is supplying 44 locations with fruit trees. Schools were offered a minimum of four trees and a maximum of 12. Both the apple and pear trees reproduce through cross pollination; therefore, a group of four trees includes three of one variety and one of another. The apple and pear varieties were specifically selected for their ability to thrive in current conditions.
"We'll be planting a variety that is drought tolerant and grow roots that are considered to be anchoring," Bergen said. "Just like the old homesteads that you see that have trees that have been there for a hundred years, that's our plan; to plant long-lasting fruit trees for the students to enjoy for years."
The inspiration for the project, dubbed "To OKC With Love," came from a visiting kindergarten class. Intrigued by PeachCrest Farms, the students had many questions about fruit trees and fruit production in particular. Bergen decided if she could bring the trees to the students they could gain a better understanding from where their food comes. In addition to providing shade and a source of education, the trees would provide fruit to students for years to come. A mature apple trees produces 400 pounds of fruit a year. In three short years, the time it takes fruit trees to reach maturity, students would be harvesting their own fruit.
Bergen wanted the trees to be an easy project for schools to embrace.
"Our goal is to make this as easy, simple and uncomplicated for the schools as possible," Bergen said.
Each tree needs five gallons of water once a week. PeachCrest is providing each school with five gallon milk jugs to use to water the trees. Planting the trees was the most daunting task so a source of volunteers was needed. Local nonprofit OKC Beautiful's young professionals group was a good starting place. OKC Beautiful organized three planting days to help.