There’s nothing like digging in and getting our hands dirty with a new project — literally! When Ruby Slipper donated to OUR Community Forestry last fall, we wanted to support a local, grassroots organization doing great things to support ecological and human health benefits. Then the executive director, Mike Oxendine, asked if we wanted to put our donation to work in person. We responded with an emphatic yes!

There are multiple projects to help with and we landed on a tree-planting day at Foss Farm in Talent, Oregon. On this 18-acre “community green nursery” owned by Plant Oregon, there will eventually be thousands of native trees used to support climate resiliency. These include native black and white oaks, plus fruit trees that pollinators and Monarch butterflies need. This is the very first year of the project with 250 trees planted so far. We spent the morning with Mike and Dave (Plant Oregon co-owner) adding Asian pears, apples, plums, and pluots to the orchard. We had a blast!

“We can’t talk about climate resiliency without talking about trees.” – Mike Oxendine, OUR Community Forestry

Mike is a wealth of information about the power of trees for communities and the environment. Not only did we get to dig around in the dirt while basking in the sunshine, but Mike also shared oodles of tree facts that we absorbed while we worked.  

Erin of Ruby Slipper and Mike of OUR Community Forestry

Why do we need more native trees in communities?


Native trees provide habitat and food sources for native wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals.

Adaptation to Climate Change

Native trees are inherently adapted to local climate conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and soil types. As climate change brings about more frequent and extreme weather events, native trees are better equipped to withstand these challenges.

Ecosystem Health

Native trees offer air and water purification, soil stabilization, carbon sequestration, and climate regulation. By planting native trees, we enhance the capacity of urban and rural landscapes to provide these essential services, which are crucial for human health and well-being. 

Cultural and Historical Significance

Native trees frequently carry profound cultural and historical significance for local communities, serving as tangible links to rich heritage and identity. By preserving and planting native trees, we uphold cultural connections to the land, nurturing a deep sense of place and belonging within communities. In Southern Oregon, a prime illustration of this is Indigenous food sources such as acorns from white and black oak trees, pine nuts, and nuts from native chestnut trees

Reduced Maintenance

Native trees are well-adapted to local soil and climatic conditions, which often means they require less water, fertilizer, and pesticide inputs compared to non-native species. 

Pest and Disease Resistance

Native trees have evolved alongside native pests and pathogens, developing natural defense mechanisms that make them more resistant to local insect pests and diseases. 

our community forestry planting trees

What is an urban food forest?

Urban food forests and community food sources (including small, diverse orchards like the one Ruby Slipper helped plant) play a crucial role in addressing food insecurity, promoting environmental sustainability, and supporting biodiversity in urban areas. The Foss Farm site where we helped plant is an example of a healthy and diverse food forest. Benefits include:

Food Security

Urban food forests and community orchards provide accessible sources of fresh, nutritious food for residents, especially in underserved or food-insecure neighborhoods. 

Environmental Sustainability

Food forests and orchards promote biodiversity, enhance soil health, and reduce food miles associated with transportation. They serve as valuable habitats for wildlife, including pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Community Building

These communal spaces foster a sense of community ownership, collaboration, and shared responsibility. Residents can engage in the planning, planting, and maintenance of food forests and orchards — sharing knowledge and strengthening social ties.

Educational Opportunities

Urban food forests and orchards serve as hands-on, outdoor classrooms where people of all ages can learn about sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. 

Gleaning and Urban Foraging

Gleaning refers to collecting leftover crops from fields or orchards after harvest. Urban foraging involves gathering wild edible plants and fruits from urban landscapes. Both practices help reduce food waste, provide additional food resources, and contribute to a more resilient and sustainable food system.

ruby slipper tree planting

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’re totally smitten with this organization, and of course, all the trees we had the honor of planting! We can’t wait to go back and see how much they’ve grown before they’re gently harvested and delivered to their new homes in five years. 

Tucking baby trees into the dirt with OUR Community Forestry had us swooning with local pride. What an incredible opportunity to put our agency’s values into motion — collaboration, integrity, community service, and lifelong learning. If you’re interested in learning more, volunteering, or contributing to OUR Community Forestry, please visit www.ourcommunityforestry.org

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