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Breaking Ground on Orchard Establishment

by Community Forests International on July 3, 2015

CFI's Restoration Orchard planted at the Rural Innovation Campus Canada!

By Emma Jackson

On Saturday, June 13th, thirty people from across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia came together to plant a Restoration Orchard at our Rural Innovation Campus at Whaelghinbran Farm outside of Sussex, NB. The Orchard is one of CFI’s first major projects to be implemented on the property, and will serve as a model for organic fruit production in the province.

As its name suggests, the Restoration Orchard is designed to restore land while producing local food. As Estelle Drisdelle, CFI’s Food and Ecology Specialist, explains, the orchard follows the principles of permaculture— a form of environmental design that mimics nature. With this, fruit will be produced by working with the natural environment, not against it.

For starters, the Restoration Orchard is planted following the contour of the landscape. This slows rainwater’s movement across the surface, giving plants and soil more time to absorb the water. If done correctly, this ‘passive irrigation system’ will increase long-term water storage, reducing the need to transport water to the orchard. 

The orchard is also designed to attract all kinds of beneficial wildlife. Under the mentorship of long-time beekeeper, Peter Hardie, those participating in the planting workshop on Saturday built bee homes using hollowed out twigs. By installing these homes and planting pollinator crops, such as bee balm and lavender, bees will be encouraged to pollinate the fruits of the orchard.

Berries that are attractive to birds, but not humans, have also been planted in the orchard, ensuring that fruit for human consumption is largely left alone. The birds will benefit the orchard by eating pests, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides.

On June 13, participants were able to see this theory put into practice. Sackville resident, Olivia White, said, “It was interesting to learn the theory behind why certain trees were chosen, and then plant them that same day. We were able to see the orchard really come together.”

So far, Community Forests International has planted a wide variety of plants and trees in the orchard, including apple, pear, highbush cranberry, hascap berry, white currant, and wild raisin. They plan on keeping track of the species’ success, and on expanding the orchard accordingly in the near future.

CFI bought the 580-acre farm in 2012 from Clark Phillips and Susan Tyler, who had been farming organically and restoring the forest on the property for over 35 years. Roughly 550 of the 580 acres are covered by intact Acadian Forest, while another 30 acres are organic farmland.

CFI envisions Whaelghinbran Farm as a space that will demonstrate the economic value of working with the natural environment. Estelle explains further, “The orchard connects economy and ecology, and shows that resilient food systems are, in fact, profitable.” 

Interested in learning more? Listen to Estelle's interview on the CBC about edible forests and orchard establishment here!

The Restoration Orchard was supported by:

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