February 20, 2024

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A forest of healthy food | News, Sports, Jobs

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Volunteers, including 4-H members from Lyon County, plant apple, pear, plum and cherry trees along the city of Marshall’s recreational trail near the Redwood River diversion channel and the county fairgrounds. The “food forest” project will help provide free fresh fruit for community members.

MARSHALL — Lyon County 4-H members recently helped plant some new trees near Marshall’s trail system — but it wasn’t just a landscaping project.

The trees — including apple, pear, plum and cherry trees — are going to provide fresh fruit for members of the public.

“It was a lot of work,” said Austin Coudron, one of the 4-H club members who helped plant and water the young trees.

But organizers hope the project will be the start of a “food forest” for the Marshall area community.

“It’s something open to all community members so they have a local source of healthy food,” said Sam Jens, 4-H youth development coordinator for Lyon County.

A “food forest” is a diverse group of sustainable plants that can provide free food for the public.

The trees were planted with the help of the Stanley Busy Beavers 4-H club during National 4-H Week, Jens said. They’re located along the part of the city recreational trail running near the Redwood River diversion channel behind the county highway department building.

Jens said the Lyon County food forest project got started last year through a partnership of Lyon County 4-H, the Lyon County and Marshall city parks departments, the Lyon County Master Gardeners and the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP).

“They talked about a food forest that was built in Luverne,” Jens said.

The Prairie Ally Outdoor Center established a food forest in Luverne in 2018. The five-acre plot is planted with a mix of perennial food plants like fruit and nut trees and berries.

To start a Lyon County food forest, organizers worked with Greenwood Nursery and Garvin Nursery to find varieties of fruit trees that would be hardy in Minnesota weather.

“We wanted to pick University of Minnesota varieties wherever possible,” Jens said. The trees selected included four varieties of apple trees developed by the U of M. They also selected pear, plum and cherry trees so fruits would be ready at different times of the year, he said.

On Oct. 10, members of the Stanley Busy Beavers helped plant the trees as a community service project. Austin and Andrew Coudron said club members helped plant and water the trees. The group filled water bags to make sure the trees had enough moisture as they got established.

“I helped zip up the water bags under the trees,” Andrew Coudron said. “And I turned on the hose.”

Jens said the partnership that organized the food forest will be taking care of the fruit trees as they mature. While some of the apple trees planted were already producing apples, “It will probably be about three or four more years before they have abundant fruit,” he said.

The food forest will also expand in the future, with additional fruit trees and bushes, Jens said. The public can follow the project’s growth through the Lyon County 4-H Facebook page.

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