February is already upon us, and that means the beginning of our pioneering Heritage Fruit Tree Agroforestry Project! With new team members joining us, lots of activities and events already planned and in the diary, and lots of deliveries to Woodbank, we’re off to a flying start.
At the beginning of the month we welcomed four new members to Kindling Trust as the new Agroforestry Team. Nick, Dan, Solvi, and Ethan all come from a range of backgrounds in food and agriculture, and bring with them some amazing skills and experiences. Nick fills the role of Project Manager, Dan and Solvi are our new Volunteer Coordinators, and Ethan is the new Community Engagement Worker. You can read up more about what they’ve done and where they’ve come from via ‘The Team’ page on our website.
These four will be leading the Heritage Fruit Tree Agroforestry Project, organising events and activities for our communities and recruiting the volunteers needed to help bud, graft, and plant the 12,000 trees we were able to purchase from the DEFRA grant last December. It’s a mammoth task, one of our biggest community training and empowerment projects to date, and we’re so excited that it’s finally begun!
We have done a huge amount of research into the types of heritage fruit (mostly apples, so far) we want on Kindling Farm, and have found several varieties that are indigenous to the Northwest, and that are suitable for the region’s changing climate and location of Kindling Farm. We chose them on the basis of their pollination period, harvesting times, storage properties, size, visual appearance (apparently people prefer red apples!) and texture and taste - core blimey it was a lot of work! Keswick Codlin, Carlisle Codlin, Lord Derby, Lord Clyde, Lancashire Pippin, Withington Welter are just some of the varieties of heritage apples that will become part of our agroforestry system at Kindling Farm.
With our list of varieties, we set out in mid-January to identify sources of scions - we decided to be flexible with our list as we didn’t know whether we would be able to get the scions in the numbers we needed, or how many scions we could get from any one tree or orchard. We have been so lucky to have such a great response from our call-outs for scions, from community orchards to the National Trust, and have now managed to collect nearly 4,000 scions. Two National Trust properties in particular have supplied us with well over a thousand scions, and Dan (our new Volunteer Coordinator) and Stu (from Unicorn Grocery) spent a beautiful winters day collecting them from Quarry Bank, South Manchester, and Acorn Bank, Penrith. We are confident we’ll now be able to hit our target of 5,000 scions for this project.
Last week we had a delivery of 2,000 rootstock to Woodbank Community Food Hub, where the agroforestry team set to a hard day’s work of digging and filling beds to properly heel in the bare roots. Two things that can harm the rootstock are them drying out due to air pockets in the soil, and frost, so in order to fully protect them from both these factors, the team had to carefully and properly heel them into the soil, where they will lie dormant until the Spring (when we will be grafting them!)
And to begin our huge task of creating these fruit trees, we need lots of volunteers - that’s you! Over the month of March we have organised five grafting workshops at Woodbank, where you can come and learn from the team how to graft the scions to the rootstock to create the heritage fruit trees, and how to store them properly until they can be planted at Kindling Farm to create one of the biggest heritage fruit orchards in the Northwest. The dates for our Apple Grafting Workshops are as follows:
Tuesday 16th March 2021 - 10:00am to 4.00 pm
Thursday 18th March 2021 - 10:00am to 4.00 pm
Tuesday 23rd March 2021 - 10:00am to 4.00 pm
Thursday 25th March 2021 - 10:00am to 4.00 pm
Tuesday 30th March 2021 - 10:00am to 4.00 pm
To book a place, please head to www.kindling.org.uk/EventBooking
It’s all systems go, and nature doesn’t wait either - Spring is here and that means a new growing season. We have loads more volunteering opportunities for you to get your hands dirty at Woodbank, so head over to the same webpage to book on.