April 22, 2019 5:01 pm
Updated: April 22, 2019 6:09 pm

University of Saskatchewan students plan edible shelterbelt

WATCH ABOVE: A group of U of S students have come up with an idea to plant an edible shelterbelt along the Meewasin Valley Trail just north of the CPR Bridge.

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There are big plans in place for an area of land on the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) just north of the CPR Bridge along the Meewasin Valley Trail.

As part of a class that focused on sustainability, a group of seven U of S students have come up with an idea to plant an edible shelterbelt.

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“We thought it would be a perfect place for the shelterbelt,” group member Taylor Kosokowsky said.

“Then we decided to take it one step further and said why don’t we plan an edible shelterbelt, so people can pick local and fresh fruits on their way.”

Dubbed the ‘Snack-belt for Sustainability’, the 4,400-square-metre orchard will be home to a variety of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs like dwarf apple, dwarf cherry, Saskatoon berry and gooseberry to name a few.

The proposed fruit orchard community project in Saskatoon.

Courtesy: Taylor Kosokowsky

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The total scope of the project includes 217 plants to be planted in rows with shorter ones in the front and taller in the back to reduce wind erosion – the main function of a shelterbelt.

“We wanted to have as many native species as possible,” group member Jordan Shirley said.

“We did settle on some more favourable edible species that aren’t native, but are not invasive as well.”

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Design and development manager with the Meewasin Valley Authority, Alan Otterbein, said the more diverse the planting, the better.

“You don’t want a single species of anything – it’s just better for biodiversity and for the longevity of the planting,” he explained.

Meewasin approved the project earlier this month. Their participation was critical – agreeing to help with planting and watering for the first three years.

“Make sure it’s not just planted and walked away from, but there is ongoing weeding and watering happening – and that it’s planted correctly so that the plants survive and become a viable shelterbelt,” Otterbein said.

As it’s on their property, orchard maintenance will fall to the U of S. With the founding students on their way out, the project will be handed down.

“It’s kind of a legacy class so the project can be passed forward to future students in this class each year,” Shirley said.

The 4,400-square-metre orchard will be home to a variety of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.

Nicole Stillger / Global News

“We’re hoping it will last well over 30 years for sure as long as it’s well maintained – could be longer,” Kosokowsky said.

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The environmental benefits of the project are abundant. Kosokowsky said the berries will attract pollinators and wildlife and the orchard will also provide an area for carbon sequestration.

For those passing by, the snack-belt will not only provide fresh fruit but an opportunity to self-educate on urban agriculture through signage in the area.

“They’ll tell people what species they are looking at, how to identify the species, when the berries can be picked and what the berries can be used for,” Kosokowsky explained.

The project has been approved, and the students now wait for a development permit from the U of S.

Meantime, a GoFundMe page has been set up to buy the plants.

The goal is to start planting by spring, but it will be at least three years before there’s good fruit production.

“Something the public can enjoy and use for years to come,” Shirley said.

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