By Lisa Loomis
The town of Waitsfield, partnering with Whole Systems Design in Moretown and the Mad River Valley Planning District, has made the first round of cuts to receive grant funding for a town orchard.
The orchard will be created at the seven-acre Flemer field at the north end of Waitsfield Village. Select board vice-chair Charlie Hosford oversaw the grant application for the town. He reported that the town has made the first cut in the grant process for the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation.
"We have made it to the second round and starting next week townspeople can go on a website and vote in favor of a town orchard for Waitsfield," Hosford said.
One of the grant conditions, he said, is that the applicants conduct a community survey to gauge public interest and then provide a horticultural course in orchard care and planting.
"We need to show a significant public interest. That's where the internet voting comes in; it is somehow a show of popular support for these grants," Hosford explained.
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation is providing funding for 25 orchards throughout the country. Grant funding will typically cover 50 to 150 trees and bushes. Every month, for the next five months, five grants will be awarded.
Waitsfield's grant application envisions the planting of native species including fruit trees, berry bushes (blueberries, elderberries and raspberries) as well as nut trees of some type.
"One condition is that fruit needs to be given away so whatever we harvest needs to be part of our community, either via the local food shelf or however we want to process it. We could make cider or jellies and contribute those to the food shelf or schools," Hosford added.
"At the Waitsfield Elementary School, the staff and organizers of the school garden are really excited about the possibility of extending the school curriculum on gardening to include orchard care, pruning and planting," he said.
The direct link for community members to weigh in on the proposed orchard will not be live until next week on March 15. It will be posted on the town website (www.waitsfieldvt.us) and on The Valley Reporter website (www.valleyreporter.com).
In addition to Whole Systems Design and the planning district, the project is also supported by Mad River Valley Localvores, Waitsfield Elementary School, Mad River Garden Center, Yestermorrow, Valley Futures Network, and Harwood Union's Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.