What nicer thing is there to keep on learning about than trees, especially those that give you something to eat? And how lovely to also share that learning with others. Luckily for me, that’s what I spend most of my time doing, especially when I’m working on CICO; the Crossfields Institute, level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding. We developed CICO because we want to share our knowledge. We also want to encourage people to learn about orchards at a deeper level.
Whilst we develop and teach all the course content, Crossfields Institute is in charge of the certification process. After jumping through all the hoops to become one of their training centres we could now run any number of accredited, orchard-related training courses. That’s a hugely exciting prospect for The Orchard Project. Watch this space!
CICO started in May and will finish next March, by which time we will be halfway through another, 6-month, version. If it wasn’t for the entirely pleasurably experience of meeting such enthusiastic and interesting orchardists, this could be seen as a nightmare! However, as you can see from these pictures of discovery, consternation and clarification, it’s an exciting journey we’re all on.
The 16 students on this course, three of whom live in Birmingham, are the ‘early adopters’ of CICO. As you can imagine, they are as keen as mustard. I very much hope that some of them come back as tutors on future courses and that they all go on to be incredibly knowledgeable and effective orchardists.
The tutors are the most knowledgeable people we could find. Here we all are for our training with Crossfields Institute.
So far the award for dedication goes to Steve Oram from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. When I forgot to bring the laptop (yes, I forgot the laptop!) which he needed for his presentation, he found a local electrical shop and bought a second-hand one. He then went out again to find the right kind of cable to connect the laptop to the projector. At 9.30 on a Saturday morning, in Ilford, I’d say that’s a pretty big achievement!
Tom Adams practices what he preaches on his wonderful nursery up in Shropshire. He showed the students how to summer prune and graft trees. Everyone felt that his practical approach really inspired their confidence in learning these new skills. We also appreciated his flexible approach – he emphasised that there is rarely one ‘right answer’ in this game.
Right on day one of the course, Stephanie Irvine set the scene for CICO. She taught orchard history and plant physiology. Stephanie has accumulated an enormous amount of knowledge on the social and cultural history of many of London’s orchards. She’s also incredibly talented at restoring and caring for veteran orchards.
For me, one of the biggest achievements of CICO has been putting together the course books. The text has come from our many ‘expert’ contributors and will no doubt be re-worked a few times before we’re fully happy. By the end of it, we will have an incredible resource to put into one book.
It’s also been a real treat spending time in a range of community orchards across London. It’s unlikely I would have made it up to the beautiful (and award winning) Dick Turpin orchard in Ilford, without the impetus of CICO. We also really enjoyed being at King Henry’s Walk Garden and Stepney City Farm.
I’m really looking forward to seeing this course through to the end, tweaking it, repeating it and generally getting it as good as it can be. Maybe you’d like to join us on this hugely exciting, and experimental journey? Perhaps you’d like to become equipped with the knowledge and practical experience you’ll need to become an excellent community orchardist? If so, please find more information here.