Eighteen volunteers, including 13 from the Sonoma Valley Rotary Club, descended upon the historic orchard at Jack London State Historic Park for a hands-on workday, planting 18 peach trees and capping a year of commitment to restoring the orchard.
The crew spent the morning re-introducing peach trees to Sonoma Mountain. Peaches were an important part of the orchard in its heyday, but the trees have been lost to time. In the early 1950s more than 40,000 gallons of fruit was being canned per year from the orchards and much of this would have been peaches.
Restoring the peach grove adds to the historic accuracy of the groves which were first planted 100 years ago.
“Protecting the environment is a key focus area for Rotary International and for our local Rotary.” said Scott Murray, president of the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley. Helping restore the existing orchards, picking seasonal harvests, and replanting the historic peach grove are important environmental projects for the Rotary clubs in this area, he said. “This is why the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley together with the Rotary clubs of Sonoma Sunrise, Sonoma Springs, Glen Ellen/Kenwood, and Valley of the Moon have all contributed people and resources to this effort.”
“The project of bringing this historic peach orchard back to life in the famed Jack London State Historic Park is a wonderful example of how a community can come together, roll up their sleeves and make a difference in our world,” said Rotary District 5130 Governor Jennifer Strong.
By working together to begin bringing this orchard back to its former glory, we are creating a world for generations to come to enjoy.”
Since 2021, Jack London Park Partners has provided produce gleaned from the orchards to Farm to Pantry, a non-profit organization that supports environmental sustainability by rescuing locally grown food and sharing it with those experiencing food insecurity in Sonoma County.
“In 2021, 2,500 pounds of fruit were gleaned. In 2022, we were able to increase the total to 3,600 pounds, primarily thanks to Rotary’s volunteer labor,” said Deputy Director and Director of Operations Eric Metz.
In restoring the existing groves and planting new ones, Rotary is confident that this annual yield can double, benefiting the food banks and people in need in Sonoma Valley.
“The historic orchard has flourished over the last couple of years thanks to growing partnerships with Rotary, CalFire and Farm to Pantry. Rotary’s commitment has been transformative and created a community connection point in the park. We are so grateful for their generosity and friendship,” said Matt Leffert, executive director of Jack London State Historic Park.
Since spring of 2022, Rotary members have volunteered over 800 hours, removing brush, debris, and downed wood from more than 35 acres of the upper and lower groves adjacent Camp Via.
In 2002 Jack London State Historic Park acquired approximately 600 acres of land from the Sonoma Developmental Center State Hospital. This land included an historic orchard – 110 acres of apple, pear, apricot, peach, cherry, and plum trees that were planted primarily in 1908-1912. By the 1980s, the orchard had been abandoned.
In the fall of 2017, Jack London Park Partners planted the first tree in the orchard in over 50 years—a quince seedling grown from a cutting taken from the last surviving quince tree in the historic orchard. To date more than 50 trees have been planted including quince, apple, pear, cherry, and apricots.
To date, approximately 35 acres of the orchards have been restored.
The March 26 planting caps Rotary’s one-year commitment to Jack London State Historic Park. Since the spring of 2022, Rotary members have volunteered more than 800 hours removing brush, debris, and downed wood from more than 35 acres of the upper and lower groves adjacent Camp Via. The result is significant.
Moving forward, the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley will continue to do smaller projects with the park.