Dig In Fairfield: More Trees for Everyone! | Help Plant Community Orchard April 20-22 in Chautauqua Park

Grants from Alliant Energy’s Branching Out program will help plant trees at schools, a business,and in a parking lot in Fairfield, plus fruit trees for a new community orchard east of Chautauqua Park.

Our small city of Fairfield has been given a wonderful gift that will make our town greener than ever, increasing energy efficiency and furthering our Go-Green plan. This gift is in the form of grants from the Hometown Rewards Program, an initiative from Alliant Energy to expand smart energy use throughout the community. The program provides resources for two years of educational programming for its partner communities, who in return commit to educating community members and improving sustainability. The steering committee for the Hometown Rewards program in Fairfield has identified 10 goals, with 37 strategies to accomplish them with the help of community-wide grassroots volunteers. If Fairfield meets these goals, Alliant Energy will help fund a highly visible solar electric installation on a city building.

More Trees for Fairfield

The other grant, also part of the Hometown Rewards Program, is through Alliant Energy’s community tree-planting program Branching Out. Implemented through Trees Forever, the grant will fund planting trees for shade and wind protection (key elements for reducing energy use) at four local schools, one business, and a public parking lot.

Perhaps most exciting of all, the grant will also fund a public orchard on the loop trail near Chautauqua Park, with the generous support of the Trails Council. This orchard will be a living classroom for teaching about horticulture, local food systems, and improved health—all important elements of our city’s sustainability plan. The tree-planting effort, which will rely on the help of dozens of volunteers, is our kick-off event to welcome these generous grants to our community.

Join the Planting Fun April 20-22

Starting mid-April we will begin to set up supplies at the seven tree planting sites. On Earth Day weekend, April 20–22, we invite you to join our community-wide effort to plant $7500 worth of trees, many sourced from the locally-owned Oakwood Nursery. The planting sites include Fairfield Middle School, Washington Elementary, MSAE, Singing Cedars Waldorf School, the municipal parking lot at the corner of North B Street and Broadway, and a local business.

Volunteers are needed at every stage of this planting operation. At the main planting of the public orchard, we will require at least 120 volunteers to help throughout the day in order to make sure we get all of the bareroot trees successfully in the ground.

Maharishi School, which has a long tradition of using the schoolyard as a place for continued education, has already received funding to install an Edible Schoolyard. The Branching Out grant will help provide shade trees around the parking lots and play equipment.

Singing Cedars is a Waldorf School that sits on an old farm site. It has an established windbreak to protect the home and school from the fierce north winds. In the past year of drought, many of the old windbreak trees succumbed. We will be using the Branching Out trees to replant parts of the windbreak.

Windbreaks are vital for rural home sites for the comfort of people, livestock, and plants. With a properly planted windbreak, a 30-mph wind can be slowed to five-mph within the protected area. The windbreak also reduces air infiltration during the winter by directing the cold winds up and over the buildings. Water loss to dormant plants and heat loss for animals will be reduced as well. When animals are protected, they spend fewer calories trying to stay warm, thus requiring less feed, saving the owners money, and producing healthier animals in the long run.

At both Fairfield Middle School and Washington Elementary, trees will be placed along the south side of the school buildings to shade the walls and roofs. Simply shading structures can reduce the energy needed to air condition by as much as 25 percent! Similarly, the trees we will plant by the municipal parking lot will lessen the "heat island effect" by shading hard reflective surfaces, thus creating a net cooling effect in the area. In addition, street trees are responsible for absorbing a significant amount of smog-creating pollutants from the air.


The site of the future community orchard in Fairfield’s Chautauqua Park.

Our New Community Orchard

The public orchard on city land east of Chautauqua Park will showcase varieties of fruit trees well suited for southeast Iowa. The trees are provided bareroot by the Edible Cityscape Project, now hosting its fourth annual fruit tree sale. The orchard will provide an outdoor classroom to teach residents elements of tree care such as plant establishment, pruning, and most importantly, harvest and processing of fresh fruit. The Jefferson County loop trail borders the planting and a new leg of the trail will cut right through the orchard and lead to a newly restored wetland.

The orchard will utilize many ecological principles. Water will come from a drip irrigation system where a solar pump will pump the water uphill to a tank so that it can gravity-feed back to the trees (like the real water cycle). We will plant beneficial nitrogen-fixing groundcovers to stop competitive grasses and decrease the need to mow around trees. The ground covers will provide green manure as a fertilizer right at the trees’ root zone. Flowers and insectary plants will create pollinator habitat and shelter beneficial insects. No chemical sprays will be used on the trees or understory, so everyone can feel free to eat fruit right off the tree without fear of chemical residues.

You’re Invited to Help Too!

For more information, contact Scott Timm, Sustainability Coordinator, (515) 291-2560, www.fairfieldgogreen.com, www.alliant energy.com/fairfield, or Avi Pogel, pogelavi@gmail.com, 919-6890, fullcircletreecrops.com.