Planting the Seeds of Knowledge

Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School has recently been awarded $5,000 through the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation (LCEF). These funds will be used to create and plant a productive 1.4-acre apple orchard on the grounds of the school.  Superintendent-Director, Dr. Heidi Riccio, expressed her enthusiasm for this unique opportunity. “What could be more representative of agricultural/vocational education than the development of a productive apple orchard? Hearing 16 and 17 year-olds discuss organic and mechanical properties of soil while predicting drainage patterns is nothing short of amazing!”  

This land-based project has already spanned multiple programs at Essex North Shore:  Arbor cleared the land, Natural Resources surveyed the land, and Horticulture researched the best apples to be grown on the land. Both the Culinary Arts Program and the school cafeteria will use these apples in their future menu planning. Students and staff have been working together on school grounds, preparing the acreage for the planting of the trees.  Community partners and advisors are many on this endeavor. Apple trees will be funded by the Essex County Fruit Growers.  According to Topsfield Fair General Manager, James O’Brien, who consulted on the orchard, the Essex Agricultural Society/Topsfield Fairgrounds will provide additional funding as needed.  Bill Fitzgerald of Mann Orchards in Methuen, a top advisor on this project, stated, “I am thrilled at the opportunity this adds to the community as a whole. The general public has an interest in fruit trees and a lot can come from this as students learn how to research and care for trees.  This is one more area of expertise Essex North Shore students will have in their portfolios as they enter the real world.”