Learning about the roots of food

Oceanside East plants an orchard; Medomak Valley builds oven, plants a pizza garden

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013 (All day)
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Jesse Bartke; Moriah Salter, cofounder ReTreeUS; Richard Hodges, cofounder ReTreeUS; Genna Chichello; and Teisha Jones, from the Good Turn Co-op. (Photo by Chris Wolf)

It was a busy weekend for Genna Cherichello, Food Corps service member with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. On April 26, she helped Oceanside East’s High School Foundations Program plant an orchard beside the garden and near the school. The next day, she was at Medomak Valley High School, in Waldoboro, helping the horticulture, life skills and ceramics classes build an earth oven and pizza garden with a host of community partners.

“Trees are a way to teach patience and permanence,” she said, while working in Rockland on Friday. “Having the students plant them now and come back in several years and see these trees and know they planted them is just awesome. I’ve met about 50 kids from the high school today. They all say it’s a beautiful day and they are learning things they didn’t know.”

Students are learning how deep to plant a tree, what it needs to be planted on a hillside, and what it needs to grow. One student said that they were reading a story about a serial killer in class and now they know just how hard it is to dig a hole to bury a body in (yikes!).

The group planted 13 trees: Seven apple, three plum and three peach. Jesse Bartke, a teacher at Oceanside East, said the peach trees might try to bear fruit as early as next year.

"We’ll probably wait three years for the apple trees,” he said.

From Oceanside, it was on to Medomak Valley to see progress on the earthen oven and pizza garden. Again, Genna Cherichello was hard at work.

“Right now we’re building the arch that will be the opening to the oven," she said. “The students from horticulture classes built the patio and the base for the oven, built four fieldstone raised beds and two hemlock raised beds. The four beds will be for various herbs and pizza ingredients and the large beds will be wheat. The whole purpose of this oven and garden is so the school community and greater Waldoboro can have a way to gather around food. The oven is a traditional method for cooking and when finished it will cook a pizza in about one minute.”

Genna said once the arch is finished, they’ll build a mound of formed sand and cover it in clay. The oven will be 27 inches in diameter. It was done in conjunction with the school’s heirloom project that is coordinated by Neil Lash, who teaches at the school. The school has 23 trees already and there will be a 12-foot by 6-foot structure going in that the patio, as well.

Lash teaches horticulture, which is part of the heirloom seed project. He also teaches honors physiology and basic science. From Friendship originally, he taught in Auburn for 16 years before returning to the area and Medomak Valley in 1983.