Pupils’ orchard project is ripe for harvesting

Councillors entering Glasgow's magnificent Victorian city chambers will have to be careful not to upset the apple cart as 120 varieties of local apples, harvested by the city's children, will be put on display on Friday.

More than 1,000 fruit trees have been planted by the city's schoolchildren, many in or near their playgrounds. The children plant the apple and pear trees, watch them grow and harvest the crop.

John Hancox, founder of the Children’s Orchard charity, says the project is exploding thanks to a desire to beat the credit crunch, to reduce food miles and to get children involved in relatively easy food production.

The project was launched in Glasgow with a pilot four year ago. Now hundreds of schools in Edinburgh, Dundee, Perthshire and East Lothian are participating, with many more poised to dig in.

Inner-city children are also taken to the remnants of Victorian orchards across Scotland and encouraged to take some of the tonnes of fruit left each year to rot on the ground. “They love picking the apples and taking them home to their families or to do something with in home economics,” says Hancox.

“For the children, there is also something magical about seeing fruit growing on trees, right through from the blossom to the fruit developing and the harvest. They get to get their hands dirty and to do something practical.”

However, the changing tastes of inner-city schoolkids can cause new problems. A teacher at Oakgrove primary, in central Glasgow, who didn’t want to be named, says: “We had our apples stolen this year. The children were quite upset.”

Notwithstanding such mishaps, the project is also helping to secure the future of some of Scotland’s rare varieties, such as the Golden Pippin.

The Guardian
November 11, 2008