The orchard is one part of a continuing effort to increase food availability in the Gasquet Community. Last May, First 5 Del Norte spearheaded an effort to build a community garden at Mountain School open to all residents of Gasquet. This orchard is an expansion of the garden and will also be open to all of Gasquet. After the garden was built last May, Patti Vernelson, Director of First 5, and Michael Waddle, Americorps VISTA with Community Assistance Network (CAN), applied for a grant through Jamba Juice on behalf of Mountain School. The grant awards $500.00 to schools to be spent on fruit trees and only fruit trees. You don't need to be an arborist to know that $500.00 worth of fruit trees won't plant themselves, so some community organization needed to take place.
Patti Vernelson and Connor Caldwell, Americorps VISTA with CAN, started attending Mountain School PTO meetings to get parents and school staff involved with the project. Since the garden-building project last May went so well, everyone was eager to repeat the success. Patti and Connor, Sara Haug and Sarah Demuth (both VISTAs with First 5), and the PTO mobilized and worked together to make flyers, coordinate food, obtain the trees, get compost, and spread the word to the whole Gasquet community. With $500.00 burning a hole in our collective pocket, Jon and Sierra Schenck, Gasquet residents and parents, worked with Miller Farm's Nursery in McKinleyville to use our grant wisely, and ended up getting 24 fruit trees to make an orchard of 5 different types of fruit!
Thanks to Kelley Atherton for the excellent coverage in The Triplicate, and for helping spread the word on great community projects.