Volunteers to harvest 6 tons of oranges
ASU's Campus Harvest team will once again take to the malls and sidewalks of the Tempe campus on Feb. 5, 6 and 12 to harvest approximately 6 tons of oranges from 265 Seville orange trees. With the help of about 200 volunteers, the team will promote sustainable and local produce as well as beautify the campus.
Although many believe the sour-tasting Seville oranges to be inedible and purely decorative, they have a multitude of uses in the kitchen, according to Dawn Ratcliffe, graduate student coordinating the volunteer efforts. They are excellent for marmalade, as well as for “orangeades,” marinades, salad dressings, and in drink mixes that call for tart citrus. Any spoiled oranges that the team harvests will be used for compost as opposed to being thrown away.
Ratcliffe is working on the Campus Harvest program in lieu of a thesis or theoretically-based project for her Masters in Liberal Studies. She chose to work with ASU Ground Services on the annual Seville orange harvest because of her interest in promoting local foods.
“Harvesting the trees with our current volunteer program helps ASU save thousands of dollars on labor and enables us to be able to harvest all of the Seville oranges which, if left to rot on the ground, attract roof rats, gnats, and fruit flies,” Ratcliffe says. “Because of our volunteer program, we are able to keep several tons of produce out of the landfill and sell some of the oranges to local businesses with any profit going to ASU’s non-profit arboretum. The trees are not sprayed with pesticides and they are fertilized with organic compost.”
The volunteers are from various student groups on the ASU campus, including the Tau Psi Omega and Beta Alpha Psi - Beta Tau fraternities and Adelante, a multicultural student group at ASU focused on the Latino college experience. The student-run ASU Center for Sustainability Initiatives is donating funds for supplies. In addition, employees from Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold are volunteering their time to help harvest the oranges.
“Campus Harvest is committed to not only endorsing local produce, but educating others on the campus and throughout Arizona about the rich farming history in Arizona," Ratcliffe says. “ASU’s modern-day campus harvest program stems from President Matthews’ decision in 1900 to create a lush oasis in the desert. He began advocating the planting of a variety of trees and shrubs, and in 1916, created Palm Walk. Others followed his example, evidenced by the planting of Seville orange trees in the late 1940s and 1950s on the Tempe campus.”
Ratcliffe approached local businesses to see if they wanted to purchase some of the oranges, and was met with enthusiasm. Royal Palms Resort and Spa has already agreed to purchase two tons of Seville oranges from ASU.
“After developing our signature marmalade using all of our oranges on property, we needed more to supply us for the year,” says Lee Hillson, the executive chef at Royal Palms. “We did not want to purchase run-of-the-mill oranges but wanted to stay local, sustainable and organic. ASU was the perfect partner, and with the addition of ASU’s oranges we have the perfect marmalade.”
In addition to Royal Palms, other local businesses, including ARAMARK Food Services on the ASU Tempe campus, the Tempe Farmers Market and Whole Foods have agreed to purchase a portion of the harvest. Ratcliffe also is discussing an agreement with Northern Arizona University to sell additional oranges to the Flagstaff university’s food service program.
For more information about Campus Harvest and to find out the specific dates and times that the team will be on campus this weekend, contact Dawn Ratcliffe at email@example.com or (301) 613-5087.
Contributed by Jeanne Schaser, ASU Media Relations