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Students grow a fruit orchard, courtesy of the Environmental Center

Alison Carter, a sophomore undeclared major, walks through the orchard by Black Bridge on Westminster College campus Sept. 13. Students and the Westminster community are welcome to take fruits, vegetables and spices from the orchard, according to Ashlyn Gnoyski, a sophomore environmental science major and Environmental Center Organic Garden Coordinator. Photo courtesy of Lily Miller. Image description: a woman in a black shirt and brown pants stands around dirt and small trees.

Westminster College students from the Environmental Center planted an orchard west of Black Bridge, which anyone in the community is welcome to take from, according to sophomore environmental science major and Environmental Center Organic Garden Coordinator Ashlyn Gnoyski.

“The trees were planted last spring, which is when the orchard first got started,” Gnoyski said. “There is a lot of student involvement in the orchard.”

Gnoyski said she helps maintain the orchard along with members of the garden team, which consists of students, faculty and staff.

The orchard was created by a Westminster senior last year, who came up with the idea to create an orchard as part of their senior project, according to Gnoyski.

Gnoyski said the orchard has a large variety of vegetables and fruits in various stages of growth at the moment.

“All of the visible fruit and vegetables that you can see in the orchard are basically new this season,” Gnoyski said. “We have some strawberry bushes, a lot of asparagus growing and an apple tree was planted.”

The orchard is currently running on a drip irrigation system, “so it basically waters itself as long as we make sure the watering is going correctly,” Gnoyski said. The drip irrigation system slowly drips water to the root of the plants, saving water in the process, according to Gnoyski.

Gnoyski said compost is also incorporated into the orchard, which was previously only used in the Organic Garden. The compost was laid down first, then pieces of cardboard and lastly the mulch, according to Gnoyski.

Alison Carter, a sophomore undeclared major, said, “I love walking past the orchard every morning on my way to class, and seeing the bees buzz around as the fruit thrives.” 

The orchard receives its funding from the Environmental Center, along with the environmental studies program, according to Gnoyski. 

Anthony Wilson, a Sugar House resident who bikes across campus frequently, said they noticed the installation of the orchard last year. 

“The blueberries are great for picking, I have grabbed a handful myself a couple of times,” Wilson said.

Bees are pollinators to many plants, which is a compelling reason for the campus beehives’ location in the orchard next to the creek, according to the Organic Garden webpage.

“More than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants need a pollinator to reproduce; and we need pollinators too, since most of our food comes from flowering plants,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The campus hives are maintained by students and provide honey and wax, according to the Organic Garden webpage. Students can attend workshops about beekeeping, participate in a guided visit to the hives, or be employed as beekeepers. 

“I want to say we might be planning on planting some more fruits in the future as the current plants and trees develop more,” Gnoyski said. 

Students who want to be involved with maintaining the Orchard can join the Organic Garden workdays, according to the Organic Garden webpage. Workdays occur every Tuesday, and anyone can join by visiting the organic garden located behind the bicycle collective. 

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Lily Miller is a sophomore from Austin, Texas. She is studying communication and has an interest in design and social media. Lily likes to ski with friends and practice photography in her free time.

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