Edible Campus Project Takes Root at Allegheny College

Students Collaborate to Plant Eight Apple Trees on Campus

MEADVILLE, Pa. – May 12, 2010 – Mike Larkin and Julian Seltzer envision a day when their fellow Allegheny College students can walk up to a tree, pick an apple and enjoy a snack on their way to class.

That day may be only two or three years away, thanks to Larkin, Seltzer and a host of others who collaborated this May to plant eight apple trees near Steffee Hall on the Allegheny campus.

The “edible campus” initiative began as a final project in an environmental science course taught by Professor Richard Bowden. “Rich wanted to know that we learned something in class and could apply it to a real-life situation,” said Larkin, a first-year Allegheny student.

Larkin and Seltzer didn’t initially plan on planting any trees this spring. They were simply investigating whether the idea was feasible. But the project quickly took root as word of it spread on campus and via a Facebook group.

“Right from the get-go, we had so much support from everyone on campus and even people off campus,” said Larkin.

With two weeks left in the semester, a group of students set about digging holes and preparing the area for planting. The college’s Physical Plant department also played a key role in readying the site, creating a swale to carry away excess water that could hinder the trees’ development.

Bill Darrin, of Meadville’s Plant Place gardening center, provided a hands-on demonstration of proper tree-planting techniques. Armed with that knowledge, students began unbundling trees and placing them in the ground on a sunny day during the last week of classes.

They used their hands, shovels and rakes to surround the trees with soil unloaded from wheelbarrows. A long stretch of yellow rope helped students make sure they were planting the trees in a straight line.

Soon enough, the apple trees stood neatly in two rows of four, neighbors to two other edible campus initiatives. Just across a sidewalk is a vegetable garden tended by students and the Arc of Crawford County, a local non-profit organization. And in the Steffee Hall greenhouse, a student started an herb garden that supplies the campus dining service. Plans are under way to expand that herb garden and move it outdoors.

Larkin and Seltzer hope their tree project likewise branches out.  “We would like to see trees in different places all over campus,” said Seltzer, “where they’re not going to be in the way but definitely accessible so people can grab a piece of fruit.”

View Photos from the Apple Tree Planting