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Ya-Ka-Ama gets new orchard near Shone Farm
David Smith, one of the original founders of Ya-Ka-Ama, blesses the site of the newly
planted orchard that was won through the auspices of Dreyer’s Fruit Bars.
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 12:30 pm | Updated: 1:13 pm, Fri Jan 11, 2013.
A total of 47 trees were planted at Ya-Ka-Ama in Forestville, last week. Apple, plum, pomegranate, pear, fig, cherry and peach were among the varieties planted that will begin producing fruit in three or four years.
The orchard was awarded to Ya-Ka-Ama Indian Education and Development, Inc., which participated in Dreyer’s Fruit Bars Communities Take Root Program.
“It was exciting to track the votes and I was pretty sure we would be in the last batch of winners, based on the count,” said Mario Hermasillo, chair of Ya-Ka-Ama Indian Education and Development, Inc., an organization that aims to provide educational, cultural and health resources for the tribal communities of Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Marin Counties.
“The voting can be done by anyone, anywhere,” said Melissa Marasco, a spokesperson for Dreyer’s Fruit Bars, who helped with the planting in Forestville along with about 15 others. It was a sunny morning, and all the trees were planted in about two hours.
“It’s a lot of trees, so not too bad,” said Marasco.
Having the holes dug in advance was a definite plus and a favor done by the neighboring Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) Shone Farm.
“What we’re finding is a whole lot of people who are pretty friendly and eager to help,” said Hermasillo.
Once the trees are producing, the fruit will be provided free of charge to those in need and there is currently plenty of need as diets for many Native Americans have changed drastically from the traditional subsistence to a commodity/fast-food form.
Hermasillo also aims to organize a little educational presentation in the orchard for future recipients of the fruit.
With fond childhood memories of running through the apple orchards that were once a part of the Ya-Ka-Ama’s 125-acre property, Hermasillo has a vested interest in re-establishing not only an orchard environment but also the gardens and native plant nursery that were once a vital part of the organization back in the 1990s.
Although Hermasillo is excited about the entire orchard, one tree reigns supreme, and that’s the first one planted.
“It received a blessing from David Smith, one of the 12 young men who occupied the property in the ‘70s. He’s now one of our elders,” said Hermasillo.
After the United States declared the land surplus federal property in 1970, the young Indians, who were attending the SRJC at the time, occupied the historic property that was long ago in their tribe’s stewardship.
“If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here doing this,” said Hermasillo.
Ya-Ka-Ama means “our land,” in Kashaya Pomo language.
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