LOS ANGELES – This week in California the world´s largest veggie-oil powered caravan, covered in forest-scape murals and carrying 1000 fruit trees and 27 volunteers, rolled out of Riverside and to begin its annual 20-city, 70-day tour to urban schools from San Diego to Sacramento.
In a one-of-a-kind day-long interactive outdoor program that includes West African agricultural drumming and eco-conscious hip-hop, Common Vision´s Fruit Tree Tour teaches inner city students how to turn barren school yards into abundant orchards, creating living classrooms with the potential to produce enough fresh fruit for the a school´s cafeteria and community.
Starting this year, all trees planted by students at Los Angeles public schools during Fruit Tree Tour will count toward the city´s ambitious new Million Trees LA initiative. On March 3 at Los Angeles City Hall in an street-closing event expected to draw thousands, Ed Begley, Jr. will introduce the Fruit Tree Tour drummers who will sound the beats to launch the new Keep LA Beautiful Campaign at a kick-off rally for the Great American Cleanup.
Each year the tour visits first-time schools to plant new fruit trees while returning to old school orchards to start new initiatives like Roots to Fruits: School Nurseries to Feed Communities, a grafting program, and Harvest Hip Hop, a roots-rhythm rap contest.
All along the way, the caravan connects and collaborates with nutrition networks and community groups working to plant trees, grow gardens and eradicate hunger, including the California Rare Fruit Growers , Community Services Unlimited , Koreatown Youth & Community Center , Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council , Los Angeles Unified School District Nutrition Network , TreePeople , Watts Garden Club and Urban Farming in 2007.
Called a "bus full of hope" by one South Central resident, the tour, now in it´s 4th year, has planted thousands of urban trees and taught of tens of thousands of inner-city California students about sustainable ecology. Fans can follow the tour online at CommonVision.org and on YouTube.
"Why can´t every day be like this?" asks Ley Yeager , principal of Vista Del Valle Elementary School in Claremont. "The music, dance and drumming are engaging and positively therapeutic. The tree-planting is a reminder of the profound power of hands-on learning. The legacy of 20 planted trees will live with us throughout our campus for many years to come. We´re already making plans to plant more trees with the hope that this seasonal produce will help enhance our school lunch program´s salad bar. And what if we end up with more fruit than we can eat here? Our students are already asking, "Who else could we help feed?"
"When Fruit Tree Tour first rolled into California´s inner cities in 2004, we had visions of transforming community centers, neighborhoods and schoolyards into edible urban forests," says Michael Flynn, director of education for Common Vision. "Our day-long tree planting program today inspires all of us to realize our responsibility to selflessly look ahead at least seven generations ahead when making decisions and taking actions to improve our local environment. From the over-heating of our atmosphere to the depletion of our topsoils, today´s children will inherit unprecedented environmental challenges caused by the short-sighted progress and development of the last few hundred years. Each year, our caravan of volunteer artists, educators and tree planters travel the length of California to support local teachers and grassroots groups in their day-to-day work to leave behind a better world."
Founded in 1999, Common Vision is a solution-focused nonprofit organization, a project of International Humanities Center . Common Visions mission is to cultivate ecological awareness and respect for the Earth while generating social and environmental changes towards sustainable lifestyles. We integrate concepts of ecology with the traditions, music, and art of cultures that live or have lived in harmony with the Earth. Common Vision infuses public schools and spaces with inspiration, infrastructure, and experience to support solution-focused environmental education for urban youth. Common Vision facilitates hands-on projects with students and community leaders that serve to retrofit public schools and spaces into models of sustainability.
California Rare Fruit Growers
California Rare Fruit Growers have offered Common Vision guidance, training, and support on many aspects of fruit tree care. To support the new Roots to Fruits program the growers have shared their wisdom on grafting and sapling care and helped develop care programs to ensure the success of school nurseries.
Community Services Unlimited
Since 2005, Common Vision has supported Community Service Unlimited´s nutritional justice mission by planting two 75 tree orchards at one middle and one elementary school in South Central Los Angeles. In 2006, Common Vision´s vegetable oil mechanics converted CSU´s school bus into a veggie oil-powered mobile inner-city farmers market and trained community mechanics to keep the market on the move.
Koreatown Youth & Community Center
As a Million Trees LA partner, Koreatown Youth & Community Center is dedicated to planting 50,000 trees in Koreatown and surrounding communities. Common Vision will contributing to a planting in the Country Club Park neighborhood.
Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council
The miss of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council is to facilitate an inclusive consensus process to preserve, restore, and enhance the economic, social, and ecological health of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed through education, research, and planning. They have helped Common Vision to bring dynamic ecological education to schools near Compton Creek , an area where students, teachers, and community members often have not considered themselves as "part of a watershed."
Los Angeles Unified School District Nutrition Network
The Los Angeles Unified School District Nutrition Network provides nutrition education in the public schools and has helped to reactivate the school garden movement. They have been instrumental in connecting Common Vision´s Fruit Tree Tour program with schools. They provide teachers with ways to integrate schoolyard orchard into their curricula.
TreePeople has been planting trees in Los Angeles for over 25 years. For the fifth year in a row Common Vision is gratefully participating in TreePeople´s Fruit Trees to Combat Hunger program. TreePeople has offered enormous support to Common Vision not only through the donation of fruit trees, but also in helping to develop our systems to support teachers and students in caring for their trees.
Watts Garden Club
Common Vision met Ana Marie Carter, the "Watts Seed Lady," in 2005 and works every year with her guidance and community relationships to planting fruit trees and inspiration where it is most needed in Watts. In 2006, the City of Los Angeles awarded a collaborative planting of 21 trees at the Watts Towers.
Common Vision has joined Urban Farming in their Collaboration to Eradicate Hunger. Starting with schools in the Compton area, Urban farming and Common Vision are working together to develop urban gardens and orchards throughout Los Angeles.