Central Scotland MSP John Wilson has hosted an event in the Scottish Parliament celebrating Holyrood Apple Day on Thursday 29th September 2011. The event was held by The Children’s Orchard as part of the The Commmonwealth Orchard project.
John Wilson MSP said “the Holyrood Apple Day event has been yet another success and I was pleased to see the event receive a great show of support from both within and outside of the Scottish Parliament. In fact people travelled from throughout Scotland to attend the event which in itself stands as a testament to the hard work of all those involved in The Fruitful Schools project”
“It is really encouraging to see students and teachers across Scotland fully engage with projects like this to bring benefits for their local community”
Holyrood Apple Day brings a collection of around 250 varieties of apples grown in Scotland. These include many of the old heritage varieties of Scottish apples, including Bloody Ploughman, Galloway Pippin, Arbroath Oslin as well as many others, including Lord Peckover, and the far northern Coul Blush. Other more exotic apples including Byelobarodovaka and Zabergankennete from Russia, but grown in Scotland.
The event also brings together orchard growers and enthusiasts from across Scotland from Kintyre, to Fife, and from Moray to Glasgow – people who are creating a Fruitful Scotland. People are planting in schools, gardens, and in community groups. Farmers and Cider makers, and even makers of a luxury gin that uses Coul blush apples will all be there, along with the Salvation Army who are making a giant apple pie with rescued apples which would otherwise go to waste.
Two schools – Mearns Academy, Aberdeenshire and Duncanrigg School, East Kilbride (a special needs school) will receive Fruitful Scotland awards.
Several groups and individuals will be honoured with Fruitful Scotland awards for great their work in promoting Scottish fruit growing, and produce. These will include Robin Harper, former Green MSP and patron of Scottish Orchards, Peter Stuart, of Thistly Cross Cider, Jim Patterson, of Big Green Tarbert. Savio D Souza of Go Greener, East Renfrewshire, and others.
The Holyrood apple day will also be an opportunity for MSP’s to find out more of their local apples. The event received cross party support, with John Wilson, Sarah Boyack, Jim Hume, Alex Fergusson, and Alison Johnstone, MSPs co-sponsoring the event.
John Hancox, Chair of Scottish fruit trees said: “ We are delighted how successful our Fruitful Schools project has been – last year we planted over 80 school orchards across Scotland, and this year many more are planned. We are calling on MSP’s to give all of our school pupils the chance to plant, grow, harvest and enjoy eating fruit from their trees. We are delighted that so many Scottish pupils have had this opportunity so far. However we call on Scottish government to allow all Scottish pupils to plant and grow. Fruit is healthy – and we are calling for the Holyrood Parliament to help the next generation to grow a fruitful Scotland.”
School Orchards are only part of the picture. Community orchards are being planted across our urban areas, and are popular with housing associations and councils. Community groups such as Salvation Army and community food coops are also interested.
Despite a decline in commercial fruit grower over many years, farmers and landowners are now starting to replant orchards to supply the demand for Scottish fruit. There has been an recent upsurge of people buying and planting fruit trees – with garden centres seeing a 4 fold rise in demand. John Hancox said, “investing in fruit trees seems a pretty good bet at the moment – they do offer sustainable growth!” The commercial growers seem to be following this trend now, especially with cider makers and farmers markets offering outlets for fruit. We are currently seeing people planting the orchards of the 21st Century and what we are going to see is both fruit growing in gardens parks and streets, but also in farms, and market gardens.
Demand for fruitful skills is also in great demand. John Hancox has been delivering training in pruning, grafting and orchard management over the past few years and reports that demand of these courses are really high. “People really want to know how to grow fruit well.”
It’s early days – but the signs are all there of a recovery in Scottish Fruit growing – and the MSP’s and guests will all be able to see, taste and drink the produce and eat the apple pie.