Gardens of the Arboretum Series: The Future Master Gardener Orchard

By Paul Kammerdiner

This project was proposed to the Master Gardeners by Rob Pruitt, Executive Director of the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at Hawkeye Community College. Having obtained approval to move forward with the project from the Master Gardeners Steering Committee, a proposal was presented at the general meeting of the Master Gardeners Club.

The project was given the go ahead and the first project meeting was held in January of this year (2014). A chairperson was chosen and the team was organized into smaller groups, each with a specific task and a team leader. The chairperson’s main initial task was to prepare a written agreement between the Arboretum and Iowa State Extension for the Orchard.

Within the master plan design for the Arboretum was a plan for a small scale orchard. Using this plan as a basis the project was off and running.

The Orchard Project team has been meeting once a month since January with the time in between meetings used for each small group to work on individual tasks. “Field trips” have been taken to near-by commercial fruit growers to learn what we could about best practices. There are 16 master gardeners involved in the project as well as the Director of the Arboretum; the local Extension office has been involved every step of the way and various groups from Hawkeye Community College have worked on specific tasks.

The joint agreement has been finalized and approved by the Arboretum and the Extension office. An excerpt from the agreement shows how the overall purpose and objective for this project lies well within the purview of these two groups.

The Orchard fulfills the mission and vision of the Arboretum to “connect people to nature through horticulture and showcase Iowa’s rich agricultural heritage.” The purpose of the Master Gardener program is to “provide current, research-based, home horticultural information and education to the citizens of Iowa through Extension programs and projects.”  This project fulfills the missions of both organizations.

Below is the short list of what we hope to accomplish;

Expected outcomes of the project are:

  1. To demonstrate practical urban agriculture as it applies to fruit growing which will augment present and on-going efforts with community gardens.
  2. To educate and involve our community’s youth in the practical application of best practices in growing fruit trees associated with Iowa heritage.
  3. Provide a source of fruit to the community by a partnership with the local Food Bank

The project team has just completed a Cost Sheet for the Orchard and turned fund raising efforts over to the Arboretum with a goal of beginning work on the site during the growing season of 2015.

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