"Apples for Schools" Program

Help preserve an important part of the south’s agricultural heritage at your school and provide a “living classroom” for your students.  Apply for an "Apples for Schools" grant. If selected, your school will receive four heirloom apple trees to plant on school grounds.

Applications due September 15, 2022.

Why Plant a School Orchard?

In 1900, 93% of the nation’s citizens farmed.  In North Carolina, 87% of its citizens were classified as small farmers.  Today, fewer than 2% of North Carolinians work small family farms. In our increasingly urbanized An apple tree with red apples on the branches and on the ground under the treesociety, agriculture is becoming more distant from our citizens with each passing decade. When asked where food comes from, children usually respond, “from  the  refrigerator” or “from the grocery store.” Bad food choices and junk food, combined with children leading more sedentary lives has led to an explosion of childhood obesity and related illnesses. As Kevin Hauser of Kuffle Creek Apple Nursery said, “Instructional School Gardens/Orchards are a way to combat these unhealthy lifestyle trends and provide good food, exercise, instruction, and entertainment to our kids. They are a way of introducing children to the wonders of the natural world, the healthy eating habits of home-grown produce, and the joy of harvesting the fruits of their own labor. The costs are miniscule, and the benefits last for a lifetime.”

Benefits of a Four-Tree School Orchard:    
  • A small school orchard will require relatively little work, once planted.
  • Four trees do not require a lot of space: 2 semi-dwarf trees per row will be planted 8 – 10 ft apart. Space between rows should be 16 ft.   
  • Trees can produce for 20-30 years.
  • Yields are good when compared to the amount of work that goes into planting, tending, and harvesting.
  • The two main needs for an orchard are water and mulch (the latter will keep weeds down).
  • The heirloom varieties produce from late July to mid-November, enabling a class to have apples for an extended amount of time.
Educational Benefits of a School Orchard:

Raising heirloom apple trees uses STEAM objectives as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. Here are just a few areas of learning:

  • History: 

    • learn about and actively preserve an important aspect of the state’s agricultural heritage.
    • learn about the origin of apples and how they made it to America.
    • learn about the history of the specific heirloom apple varieties in your orchard.
  • Language Arts:
    • study mythological stories involving apples.
    • learn the vocabulary of apple trees and agriculture.
  • Science
    • see where food comes from.
    • study cross pollination and genetics. 
    • learn about destructive and beneficial insects in the orchard.
    • explore the role pollination plays in crop success.
    • learn what apple trees need to grow and thrive. 
    • explore tree grafting, water conservation, and soil health.
  • Math
    • map the orchard layout and plant the trees.
    • estimate crop yields.
Words of Advice: 
  • It may take several years before the trees produce fruit. Some years’ crops will be bumper crops, while other years may be lighter.
  • Young trees require water to live. This includes having someone commit to watering them throughout the summer.
  • Bees will be attracted to the blooms on the trees.

If you are excited about having your school to be on the forefront of saving this important aspect of the South’s rich agricultural past, as well as teach your students a wealth of information, fill out the application linked below and submit to the Horne Creek Farm Office.  Applications may be submitted by regular mail, email, or hand delivered. If you choose to mail your application, we encourage you to have your local post office postmark it.

Mailing Address: Horne Creek Farm, 308 Horne Creek Farm Rd., Pinnacle, NC 27043                                                     

Email Address: lisa.turney@ncdcr.gov