“I was encouraged throughout all of Fruit School to know that there are many other individuals who believe in the power of food and a sustainable future,” said Junior Adrienne Derstine. A representative of the Sustainable Food Initiative (SFI), Derstine put her beliefs into action by attending Vine & Fig’s annual Fruit School.
On Feb. 25 and 26, EMU students congregated with representatives from local farms and interested community members to learn more about fruit and nut tree care under the direction of “Treecher” Professor T. Bud Barkslip—Bill Whipple.
With projects in West Virginia and North Carolina, Whipple is responsible for such projects as the Nutty Buddy Collective, Acornacopia, and “Seeds of Doubt.” These projects enable new farmers and those unfamiliar with agriculture and foraging to form a connection with the natural world.
A small group of EMU students were joined by EMU Building Automation coordinator and SFI advisor Greg Sachs in hopes of learning more about how they might care for EMU’s existing fruit trees.
Fruit School students spent each day learning pruning and grafting techniques and when to apply them. Recently pruned trees can look bare and diminished when compared to their original state. However, pruning shears, when brandished by the right hands, can give shape to incredible growth and fruitfulness in the future.
In this same way, Fruit School stimulated the passion and SFI representatives to use their skills to encourage the healthy growth of SFI in years to come. In the words of Senior Environmental Sustainability major Jack Hummel, SFI “gives students a way to be involved and actually doing something, and hopefully being able to literally see the fruits of their labor.”
The first day of Fruit School ended with a dinner for everyone in one of the houses at Vine & Fig. A farm in the heart of Harrisonburg, Vine & Fig proved to be an appropriate location for this unique opportunity.
“It was my first time [at] Vine and Fig,” said First-year Biology and Premed student Melissa Kinkaid. “I really enjoyed getting to see how they operate: Everything from the house structures to the gardens shows a commitment to being as productive as possible with what they have.”
Fruit School also challenged students to think critically about the problems that are at our doorstep. Derstine said, “One major question I had was how college students can participate in a waste-free lifestyle and how we can begin this revolution at a place where our resources and time are limited.”