iDig2Learn, in a partnership with Trees New York, planted five apple trees last Wednesday between the Roosevelt Island Garden Club and the Octagon soccer field, coining it an “urban Apple orchard.”
The founder of iDig2Learn, Christina Delfico, an initiative that provides children with hands-on education using plant life, said, “Planting fruit-bearing trees provides food locally and is a great step towards food justice for our City. If we provide equal access to healthy food, the community will be served for years to come.” According to Delfico, these trees will be available for picking by the entire Roosevelt Island community once they mature.
Trees New York provided the trees and Girl Scout troops 3001, 3244 and 3245 led by Aisha Eleusizov, Heather Smith, and Janine Shaefer, provided the person-power. The girls dug the holes, planted the trees, filled the holes, added mulch, and watered the trees. They spent four hours on the project, stopping only for apple-themed snacks – apple muffins and apple cider. Shaefer said, “It’s so important for us to come together and make our little corner of the planet better.”
Trees New York
The scouts were assisted by Cheryl Baylock, the Director of Youth Programs for Trees New York and arborist Sam Bishop. iDig2Learn and the Girl Scouts had worked with Baylock before. In fact, last April the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) removed the iron gates in the tree pits from 11 trees along the sidewalk across from the post office to pave the way for a tree stewardship effort. Trees New York worked with the Girl Scouts to loosen soil, add flowers and mulch those trees.
Baylock praised the scouts. “They were enthusiastic participants of our street tree stewardship event last spring. So when we found a location on Roosevelt Island to plant fruit trees, we knew that iDig2Learn, the Girl Scouts, and the Garden Club would be the ideal partners to adopt [the trees] and take care of them. We look forward to continuing the program with lessons on fruit tree maintenance, pollination, and soil science.”
He added, “Trees New York selected Roosevelt Island among several garden locations around the City [that] were finalists to receive the FruiTrees program. The apple trees were selected because the existing crabapple trees nearby will enhance their ability to pollinate and produce fruit.”
Dr. Ali Schwayri, president of both the Roosevelt Island Tree Board and Roosevelt Island Garden Club, joined Baylock and Delfico in August to choose the site. He said, “We are lucky to have some remaining green areas on Roosevelt island. Fruit trees provide food for body and mind and are a welcome addition to the necklace of cherry trees on Roosevelt Island.”
Trees New York selected the specific apple varieties for their unusualness and taste: Crimson Gold, King David, Pink Pearl, Red Summer Rambo, and Tolman Sweet. They are all dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties so they will be easier to pick.
iDig2Learn was launched in March 2012 with the help of New York City grants out of the desire to excite children about their natural world and allow them to discover how plants improve their everyday life. iDig2Learn’s purpose is to unite the community around the idea that city children benefit greatly from time outdoors in nature using their environment to explore science, math, and the origin of food through plant life.
Delfico’s plans for the organization are to “grow the initiative out, and show other communities how easy it is to unite their neighborhoods with plant-themed fun and educational projects.” She says, “Plants can be the gateway to many topics – health, science, math, art, photography, history, and so much more. Local groups with the same goals can come together [to serve those interests].”
Recently, iDig2Learn was honored as a top ten finalist in TEDx Manhattan, "Changing the Way We Eat," and presented a workshop at the Green Thumb 29th Annual Conference. In July, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) named Delfico its East Coast Green Committee’s co-chair. The PGA produced a green guide to help media companies and television and film productions waste less.
“I am working with RIOC on the film and television permits to reduce idling of production vehicles, a common concern from residents, and to remind our media friends that Roosevelt Island is green,” explains Delfico, who plans a cider tasting on the Island in our future.
Stay tuned, this may bear fruit.