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As spring approaches in the Keweenaw, many of us are looking forward to the change in season. Blue skies are slowly replacing dreary winter days, sunlight is peeking through layers of clouds and April showers (or March showers, that is) are working to bring us May flowers. Spring is a time of growth for many, whether that means shaking off the winter blues or literal growth — after all, spring is commonly known as the start of the growing season. Apple trees blossom with the promise of fruit in the fall, while tulips and daffodils sprout from their bulbs and pop their colorful heads out from the dirt. After a long winter in the Upper Peninsula, the beauty of spring is one perk, but another is the availability of locally-grown, fresh produce. Farmers markets and local stores are ways to gather fresh, sustainable and local food, but the Keweenaw Youth for Climate Action (KYCA) has started a new initiative to bring fresh produce to the people of Houghton and Hancock.
The KYCA is a group of Michigan Tech students and community members alike, well-known for their various projects and initiatives that aim to put the health of our planet first. Founded in 2019, the group’s past projects include a petition urging Michigan Tech to divest from fossil fuel companies and various protests addressing environmental issues like climate change and the Line 3 Pipeline. Their latest project, however, focuses on the local community and their access to sustainable, local, fresh fruit.
The KYCA’s Community Fruit Tree Project will bring 15 fruit trees in total to public spaces found throughout Houghton and Hancock. Carefully selected for the Copper Country’s finicky climate, these seven apple trees, two pear trees, two plum trees, two peach trees, and two cherry trees will be planted later this spring, after the snow has fully melted. To ensure the survival of these saplings, the KYCA is asking for local community members to step up and act as caretakers to the trees.
Caretakers are asked to dedicate around 30 minutes per day, for at least the first two weeks after the tree’s planting, to taking care of the trees. Daily watering and semi-frequent pruning will be required to ensure the tree’s survival. To become a caretaker, the KYCA is asking interested parties to fill out this form.
Becoming a caretaker is a great way to get outside and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer, and it’s a great project for individuals of all walks of life. You could make it a family matter, as gardening with children has loads of potential benefits. Or, maybe you’re a Michigan Tech student who has decided to stay in Houghton for the summer — what better way to get a group of friends together than by taking care of a tree? Outdoor gardening has other benefits as well. Vitamin D, gained from spending time in the sun, is a necessary nutrient that helps your body with numerous processes, and gardening has also been shown in studies to be a mood booster in those with clinical depression.
As far as for the trees, once they have begun to produce the delicious fruits that each has to offer, these fruits are available free to the picking for anyone within the community. Access to healthy foods, such as fruit, are vitally important to our everyday health. In addition to nutritional benefits of fresh fruit, fruit trees positively impact the environment by reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions, reducing energy usage, and preventing erosion.
For questions regarding this project, interested parties are encouraged to reach out to Evan by email: [email protected] or by phone: 216-633-2556. If you are interested in becoming a tree caretaker, please fill out this form, where you can also read more information about how to take care of the trees and where they will be planted.