Staff Alumni Bear Fruit

By: Leora Cockrell, Tawonga Farm and Garden Supervisor

Earlier this month, Camp staff alumni and volunteers planted nearly 100 trees and plants on Tawonga’s property at the second annual Staff Alumni Spring Service Weekend. Many of these individuals wouldn’t normally visit Camp as participants and found themselves immersed in Tawonga’s natural beauty with a unique opportunity to give back to the land.


To get in the spirit of planting, volunteers imagined the community of relationships within the trees’ surrounding ecosystem – water, soil, sun, nutrients, microbes, etc. In that mindset, participants intentionally chose a special place for each planting, where campers could enjoy its shade or pick its fruits.


On Saturday, the group replanted 55 native trees in the Challenge Course area of Tawonga. Before the 2013 Rim Fire, this part of Camp was wonderfully secluded in a shady forest. With the intention of recreating that magical forest feeling, participants planted Black Oaks, Ponderosa Pines and Incense Cedar.


Volunteers were so enthusiastic about planting that after finishing the first 30 trees, a small crew dug up 25 more trees that needed to be transplanted in order to have more room to grow, and brought them to the Challenge Course.


As Wilderness Coordinator Danya Axelrad-Hausman shared,

“It feels good to know we are giving these trees a chance to survive, and giving back to the forest and land of Tawonga.”

People gave wonderful care to each seedling by encircling it with rocks to mark the location and sharing a hope for this new life as it grows in Tawonga’s community.


On Sunday, the group headed to the garden to plant a total of 38 fruit-bearing plants and trees. In a newly expanded part of the garden, volunteers planted four olive trees, four pomegranate trees and 26 raspberry plants along the new fence line that was built by the Teen Leadership Institute in summer 2017.


In Judaism, olives and pomegranates make up two of the seven species of plants that are considered sacred.


Participants also planted one apple tree, two cherry trees and one nectarine tree. In a few years, everyone at Tawonga will be able to enjoy the sweetness of these locally grown and harvested stone fruits!


Throughout the weekend, many participants shared how special it felt to return to Camp after many years. Upon leaving, the group shared something they had given and something they had received from the land or each other. Participants received clean air, relaxation and reflection; and they enjoyed giving physical labor and contributing to Tawonga’s long-term care.


Maya Amichai, who volunteered during the weekend, reflected,

It felt truly rejuvinating to spend the weekend connecting with and giving to a place that gives so much.”

Tawonga hopes to continue this new fruitful tradition of a Staff Alumni Spring Service Weekend – keep an eye out for announcements in late winter 2019 to join!  


P.S. In case you aren’t already a member, check out Tawonga’s Young Alumni Facebook group to stay in the loop on events and programs.