Community orchard progressing
Volunteers are nearly finished installing the irrigation system at the Fairfield Community Orchard, but they could use a little more help.
Fairfield’s Sustainability Coordinator Scott Timm said he hopes one final push will be enough to complete the irrigation system. Students from Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment will work at the orchard Thursday, when the public also is invited to join the students for the all-day event from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Timm advises volunteers to wear work clothes and bring work gloves and drinking water. Volunteers are encouraged to park at the Parkview Care Center parking lot or in the parking lot on the east end of the road in Chautauqua Park.
Timm and two others who spearheaded the creation of the orchard, Avi Pogel and Tom Barrett, were hard at work this morning installing emitters in the irrigation line. The orchard houses a little more than 150 fruit and nut trees, each of which will be fed by three emitters in the line. The trees should never go thirsty as each emitter will supply the tree with one gallon of water per hour. The water for the irrigation line comes from the nearby creek that runs through the park.
The irrigation line was not part of the original project in April 2012 when all the trees were planted. The need for it was born later in 2012 when the drought left the young trees high and dry. During the drought, volunteers had to water the trees by hand on five occasions.
Construction on the irrigation system began in late July when LISCO dug the trench and volunteers installed the pipes. A grant of $1,300 from the Greater Jefferson County Foundation paid for the system.
The orchard is already producing some fruit such as mulberries and a few peaches. Timm said residents will probably have to wait a year or two before the trees are producing plentiful harvests, though. He expects most of the trees to reach maturity in four to six years.
“The orchard has two main purposes – one is to provide food for the community and the other is to be used as a space to hold workshops and do educational work,” Timm said. “We have workshops on pruning, grafting, fruit tree maintenance and drip irrigation.”
Timm said it’s easy to understand why there is so much enthusiasm for the orchard.
“People love to learn how to do things and see evidence of their work,” he said. “They like coming back and seeing the ‘fruits’ of their labor.”
The fruit in the orchard is free for the taking. Timm recommends residents only take one bucket of fruit per person. He said the fruit is not meant to be resold. The trees produce a wide variety of food such as chestnuts, apples, plums, peaches and paw paws.
Timm said the volunteers who oversee the orchard are thinking of adding a children’s community garden in the southwest section of the orchard.
The creation of the orchard in April 2012 also kick-started Alliant Energy’s Hometown Rewards Program. The Hometown Rewards Program is an effort to increase energy efficiency in Fairfield. Since the program began, Fairfield has cut its energy use 8 percent.
The Hometown Rewards Program has sponsored monthly workshops on renewable energy and how to reduce energy use in the home.
“We’ve done weatherization blitzes, where we’ve weatherized 15 homes at a time. We weatherized a group of veterans’ homes last fall,” Timm said.
The number of energy-efficiency rebates Fairfield residents have applied for has increased 250 percent since the program began.
“The city has gotten national attention for the program we’ve run,” Timm said, referring to the governor’s award for environmental excellence the program received earlier this summer.
The Hometown Rewards Program will come to an end with a celebration Sept. 14 at the Fairfield Public Library. A “bike-in movie” will be shown outdoors, and attendees are encouraged to ride their bikes to the event.
The movie will be the 2008 animated film “WALL-E.” Food will be served starting at 5 p.m. followed by the movie at 7:30 p.m.
The event is noteworthy for another reason and that is the library will “flip the switch” on its 17 kilowatt solar array, which will provide solar power to the building. Timm said the solar array will save the library more than $2,500 in energy bills every year and will pay for itself within seven to nine years.