This project entails the implementation of conservation, environmentally friendly farming practices and food production, while providing unique educational and volunteer opportunities for local students and residents. Its focus is on demonstrating sustainable agriculture and multiple land use. There are very few opportunities to observe this combination on public land.
The seed orchard component involves a tree restoration on the site using indigenous nut –producing tree species which are rare in the Rouge Valley watershed. The agricultural component involves growing squash within the first few years of the project, and once the trees mature and begin to shade the area, other more shade tolerant crops could be used. The harvested nuts and pumpkins would then be used in other reforestation projects, as well as health and nutrition, and environmentally friendly and organic food growing projects.
The project site is a 0.75-acre field, which had previously been farmed. It is situated within the Rouge Valley watershed, and has been zoned as an agricultural reserve by the Rouge Park. The grade 8 students participated in planting the trees in May 2005 at the agroforestry site.
Additional benefits include:
- 235 native trees were planted on the site, which exist in very small numbers throughout the Rouge; this will help to increase biodiversity, reconnect fragmented portions of the park and provide significant wildlife habitat.
- The trees will also serve as a seed orchard, where the nuts collected can be later used in nutritional programs, as well as in other reforestation projects.
- Additional opportunities for agricultural crops will be available once the trees mature, creating a self-sustaining project.
- Approximately 30 Grade 8 students participated in a community restoration project, as well as an environmental education program.
- The General Forest Knowledge Test Results showed a significant benefit from the project with a 23% increase in test results. (Prior to the planting, the average grade was 56%, post planting, the students scored much higher at an average of 78%).