Master Fruit Tree Stewards join volunteers at Holy Cross Orchard pruning

Apr 13th, 2021

On March 27th, in partnership with Holy Cross Lutheran Church, City Fruit hosted our second pruning event of 2021 at the Holy Cross orchard.  Located in Factoria, South Bellevue, the 3 acre heirloom fruit orchard hosts 30 trees including plum, apple, quince, and pear.  A hazelnut and walnut tree grow within the orchard as well!  In addition to the weather being a beautiful, sunny spring day, this pruning event was special for a few reasons.

A brief history of Holy Cross Orchard

This event marked the continuation of collaboration between City Fruit and the Holy Cross Lutheran Church Earthkeeping team.  Holy Cross orchardists, Ingrid and Micki, and Holy Cross groundskeeper, Rahmat, joined the event and shared their knowledge about the church and orchard throughout the work party. Ingrid shared that the Church was built over 50 years ago on what was once the site of a small farm.  The congregation would meet in the old farm house in the early days, but now, the open farmlands of Bellevue have all but transitioned into urban development, with the 3 acre orchard being one of the last vestiges of undeveloped land in Factoria.  Ingrid shared that the Church sees this space as an important resource and gathering place for the community, and that Holy Cross intends to protect the orchard and garden for public community use into the future.  

When the Church first took over the orchard in 2010, the Earthkeeping team worried that the names of the apple varieties “had been lost to time.”  Fortunately, the Seattle Tree Fruit Society was able to identify the apples as Winesap, Ben Davis, Baldwin, Esopus, Spitzenberg, Duchess of Oldenburg, Opalescent, Winter Banana, and Transparent varieties (see Holy Cross’s blog for more information).  Altogether, just from July to October of 2012,  the fruit trees at Holy Cross produced over half-a-ton of fruit!  Wow!  Although most of the fruit goes to the HopeLink Food Bank, some of the quince is sold to local restaurants, and the imperfect fruit is used in the Church’s annual community cider pressing event.  Over the years, City Fruit has provided assistance to the Earthkeeping team through pruning and pest management strategies, in addition to support with cider press rentals.

Master Fruit Tree Stewards at Holy Cross

This pruning event was also special in that City Fruit welcomed our newest cohort of Master Fruit Tree Stewards (MFTS) to their first workshop session. This series of classes prepares community members to grow, cultivate, and care for fruit trees in the greater Seattle community.  In response to COVID-19, City Fruit made the decision to cancel last year’s 2020 program; however, we are glad to welcome last year’s cohort members back to be part of the 2021 program.

At the Holy Cross event, we had 7 MFTS and 5 community volunteers present.  Julian Garcia, City Fruit’s Fruit Tree Specialist, worked with the group of MFTS to go over basic winter pruning strategies designed to increase overall tree appearance, air flow, health, and fruit production.  He also reviewed the pruning techniques needed for different kinds of fruit trees, using the orchard’s apple and quince trees as examples.  Tiare, City Fruit’s Community Growth and Impact Manager, worked alongside the community volunteers on pruning the orchard’s Transparent apple trees.  

By the closing of the event, all volunteers and MFTS had a chance to review and polish their pruning skills, and in the process, we also removed over a  dozen wheelbarrows of dead and pruned growth from the Holy Cross orchard trees!  Although this wraps up winter pruning for 2021, City Fruit is excited to be moving onto harvest prep activities soon.  Register on our volunteer portal (https://timecounts.org/city-fruit), and stay tuned for more work party announcements!