Lunenburg has a brand new fruit and nut orchard

The Sun is Coming Out: Ne’ata’q, The Food Forest at Bluenose Academy

(Illustration: Jessie McLaughlin)

Lunenburg has a brand new fruit and nut orchard! At a ceremony on May 26, students from a grade 3/4 class at Bluenose Academy planted the first tree in Ne’ata’q, the Food Forest at Bluenose Academy.

The students, guided by Shawn Feener, first offered tobacco to thank Mother Earth. They then lowered a beautiful pear tree, still in flower, into a site enriched with compost, leaves and seaweed. In the following days, teams of community volunteers, including children through to seniors, planted more trees and bushes: pear, apple, plum, peach, haskap, currant, blueberry, elderberry and cranberry. Nut trees will follow in the fall.

Given this long and delicious list (and we’re just getting started) you might ask: How much food will the forest produce? Where will the food go? And will the food forest really make a difference?

Nova Scotia has one of the lowest rates of food security—defined as the ability to afford sufficient quantity and quality of food—among all Canadian provinces. Bluenose Academy already assists many students and families through the school’s breakfast and lunch programs.

At the same time, Nova Scotia imports over 90 per cent of our food; less than 10 per cent of our diet is produced on Nova Scotia farms.

And while many households have home gardens, those who don’t grow their own food say that’s because they lack the knowledge, time, money, or space.

The food forest at Bluenose Academy will help to address these issues. A single, well-tended apple tree can produce hundreds of apples. It will take time for our trees to mature, of course, and for the first few years they will require tending. The berry bushes will produce food within a year or two. The herbs and edible flowers will be ready for harvest later this year. 

Produce from the food forest will be available to everyone. This is a school-community-nature collaboration and the orchard is open to all. We do expect that most of the food will be used in the school cafeteria, known as the “galley.” Fruit, for instance, can be enjoyed at the breakfast program; herbs can be used in lunch dishes and the school’s salad bar. 

Will this solve food insecurity in Lunenburg? No. Will it make a difference? A wholehearted yes. 

Our motto is Learn, Play, Eat, Connect. “Learn” is first, in part because the food forest is located at a school but also because food literacy is a big part of food security.

To date, we have held workshops and work parties on dividing plants and growing plants from cuttings; planting trees to thrive in poor soil; gathering freely available soil amendments like leaves and stormcast seaweed; and planting “guilds” that increase soil fertility and pollination.

Student classes in the food forest began June 12 with grades primary to six participating.

And again, we are just getting started.

By putting “learning” first, we hope to share the many fruits of the food forest. Not only apples, pears and berries. Not only herbs that have outgrown their space or raspberries ready for transplant. But experience, knowledge, skills, time, space, resources and—most of all—the confidence, connections and enthusiasm to start growing food.

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