Newly-planted fruit trees at Old Lyons Orchard
In May 2021, FTPF brought our Trees for Tribes program to a new tribal partner, the Bay Mills Indian Tribe of Michigan. The four orchards donated here this year, when mature, will provide 2,255 pounds of harvest annually, creating a source of perennial, sustainable nutrition to the tribe’s 1,309 enrolled members for generations. The tribe will also benefit from the many smaller fruiting berry plants installed alongside the orchards as well.
The Bay Mills Indian Community first applied for an orchard grant from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation in 2019 after tribal leadership heard about similar work we had done with the Saginaw Indian Tribe of Michigan. Plans were in place to work with the tribe in 2020, but had to be rescheduled due to the situation on the reservation caused by the COVID19 pandemic. After two years of waiting, the community was really excited and in high spirits for the orchard planting events and workshops. Below are descriptions from each of the four orchard plantings:
Waishkey Bay Farm This orchard was planted at the tribal community college farm site, where it will be utilized by students for educational purposes and families for its harvest. A group of enthusiastic special needs students from the EUPISD Learning Center also joined us for the planting, bringing lots of questions and joy to an already special day. A total of 61 fruiting plants were installed (33 fruit trees and 28 berries) around the farm, including large bareroot apples, pears, elderberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Volunteers also set up a large deer fence—no small task—as well as rabbit guards and tree stakes to ensure the trees are protected from local wildlife and strong winds.
Old Lyons Orchard A gorgeous location welcomed a new orchard of 34 trees and 6 berries, adjacent to one of the oldest orchards in the region with 100+-year-old apple trees surrounding the newly planted trees. Tribal Chairperson Whitney Gravelle opened the event with a ceremony dedicating a tree to the memory of Bülent Altay.
Bay Mills Commodities Center / Bay Mills Child Development Center We celebrated the final day of tree planting with the tribe by planting two orchards at adjacent locations. At the Commodities Center, 8 trees and 18 berries, including apples, elderberries, blueberries, and raspberries, were planted; at the Child Development Center, a variety of 16 trees were planted. Volunteers also helped us set up drip irrigation and put on tree guards to ensure the trees are protected and receive plenty of water in the hot summer months. Many of these volunteers had been planting with us over the past several days and were experts by now, installing the orchard with care and skill to ensure it will survive and thrive for decades to come.
Overall, this project was a huge success and we appreciate all those who support food sovereignty and tribal health by contributing to our Trees for Tribes program. Here's to a very fruitful future for the Bay Mills Indian Community!