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549 Orchard is one year old

Prairie Wind Middle School students, left to right, Adam Siira, Aaron Hegales, Caleb Mycke and Nick Vana, from one of Jenni Melvin's 7th grade science classes, do some orchard maintenance. Submitted photo

The public is invited to take a stroll through the 549 Orchard, which is one year old this spring.

Established using funds from PartnerSHIP 4 Health, the orchard includes 40 apple trees and 40 blueberry plants. It is located southwest of Prairie Wind Middle School.

It will likely be another year before the first sizeable harvest. Fruit will go directly to Perham-Dent schools for student consumption.

Possibilities for handling surplus fruit include freezing, drying and canning fruit for future use by the school district, as well as the option of sharing or selling fruit within the community.

There are 16 varieties of apple trees and four varieties of blueberry plants in the orchard. An automated irrigation system meets the watering needs of young plants.

Growing produce on campus offers lasting lessons on food, nutrition, and horticulture. Students and teachers took part in establishing the orchard, from setting up planting grids to digging, planting and cleanup.

A number of Perham-Dent teachers in all three school buildings have "adopted" trees with their students. This means they check on their tree's health, take part in orchard maintenance, and harvest apples in the fall.

With blueberries ripening over the summer, local service groups and youth organizations will have the opportunity to do volunteer berry picking. The berries will be frozen for use during the school year, but volunteers will get to sample them at their best.

All orchard products and materials have been purchased locally, with cooperation from Perham area businesses.