You may have sampled Dromoland Orchard & Stables organic apple cider earlier this week in the Sutherland Campus main foyer. Michael and Pauline Bryant, the owners of the orchard in Little Britain, were handing out cider samples to staff and students at the Mental Illness Awareness Week event, sharing the health benefits of apples. The couple said they were happy to be a part of the event and give back to Fleming as Fleming College has given so much to them.
Michael and Pauline moved to the farm on 598 Elmtree Road, Little Britain, three years ago. The property had been let go, covered with weeds, and was a mess. During a walk through the property, Michael spotted some apple trees and decided to call Urban Forestry Technician program coordinator Tom Mikel at Frost Campus to see if Tom could help. Despite Michaelâ€™s friends advising him to chop the apple trees down, Tom considered the historical aspect of the apple farm and felt it was worth saving.
â€śBeing a bit of a history buff, especially local history and the stories of trees and heritage trees within the community, I was intrigued by Michael and Paulineâ€™s apple trees. According to Michaelâ€™s research, he found the apple trees came from a family in Valentia Island, Ireland, who visited Canada in the 1850s with apple seeds in their pockets. They ate apples and, since they didnâ€™t have clean drinking water, they would use apple cider for their thirst,â€ť said Tom. â€śThe history of this property is incredible and I wanted to be a part of saving it. At the same time, we had the added benefit of accessing an almost unlimited local location where our students can learn how to perform proper pruning skills as part of their curriculum.â€ť
Tom brought his students to prune and cut trees, pick apples, complete identification, eradicate buckthorn and more. Over the past three years, Tom has organized 800 Urban Forestry, Forestry, Arboriculture and Ecosystem Management students to visit the orchard and gain hands-on, applied learning experience.
â€śThe students brought such an enthusiasm to learn. Over the last three years it has created a wonderful regeneration of the orchard and is moving forward,â€ť said Michael. â€śI think there is something special between Dromoland and Fleming College. We saved something that was dyingâ€”and thatâ€™s all because Tom helped. And I helped. We all helped.â€ť