Earth Notes - Hopi Orchards

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Hopi Orchards

Some of the fruits and vegetables we eat travel thousands of miles to reach our kitchen tables. Shipping food from such distant sources costs fuel and money. So why not raise food closer to home?

It's not a new idea. The Hopi people of northern Arizona are experts at growing food in a tough environment. For centuries farmers have raised beans, squash, and other crops including the famous Hopi blue corn on three arid, windswept mesas that are the tribe's ancestral homeland.

Now, thanks to a new community tree-planting project, future harvests on Hopi land will also include fresh, organically grown fruit. Last October, volunteers planted 320 trees in five community orchards.

To deal with the harsh growing environment, planters used drought-resistant tree varieties and installed drip irrigation systems.

The orchards located in the villages of Polacca, Moenkopi and Kykotsmovi will be cared for by local elementary school students. The fruit apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and even pomegranates will be used for school lunches and community projects.

The project is a collaboration between the Hopi Tutskwa PermaCulture program
and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, a California-based nonprofit group that works to improve food supplies around the world.

The orchard project's organizers say it will strengthen community ties and help a new generation to learn traditional Hopi values of stewardship and responsibility.

Lillian Hill, who directs the permaculture program, says local young people will gain practical experience caring for the trees and learn traditional ecological knowledge to help them work toward a more sustainable future.

-Michael Wolcott