“People are always very surprised to see where fruit comes from and to see it growing on trees.  People were super excited about the apricots!”
-Anna Paulk, SHARE Food Program Orchard
Thank you for helping us to expand community orchards in Philadelphia!
Here are some highlights from our spring season and some of the interesting people and stories we’ve met along the way:
POP’s Phil Forsyth with Mayor Nutter, Deputy Mayor Gillison, and EPA Regional Administrator Garvin at the Philadelphia Prison System Orchard ribbon-cutting.

Please read below for more info about POP’s latest efforts:

  • new Education & Outreach Director and POP interns
  • serviceberry harvest & new gleaning program
  • spring season summary
  • orchard report: Tertulias
  • how you can help!

Introducing Robyn Mello, POP’s new Education & 
Outreach Director

Robyn Mello at POP’s first serviceberry harvest event!

This spring, POP hired long time volunteer Robyn Mello to be our new part time Education & Outreach Director.  Robyn is helping expand POP’s educational programming and community outreach, and is working on  a new gleaning program to harvest surplus fruit.

Robyn has extensive experience as a community activist, sociological researcher, and edible landscape designer. She founded Philly Food Forests, a grassroots group that has helped over a dozen neighborhoods throughout the city start community gardens in blighted, vacant lots. She also works as an Environmental Justice researcher with the Delaware Environmental Institute, volunteers in her neighborhood’s Norris Square Neighborhood Project gardens, and is a composer and musician with The Radicans.

Robyn graduated summa cum laude with an Honors BA in Sociology, Political Science, & Africana Studies from the University of Delaware in 2009. If you have any ideas about a  gleaning program, orchard education, community outreach, or related areas, Robyn wants to hear from you. Email her at robyn@phillyorchards.org.

In addition to hiring Robyn, POP has also begun an Orchard Internship program.  Megan Bazin and Tina Kalakay are POP’s 2014 Orchard Interns and are assisting with our Orchard & Events Committees, researching orchard care topics, and helping with orchard plantings, work days, and POP’s nursery.

Spring 2014 Event Summary

Serviceberry Harvest.  

Gleaning, or gathering leftover produce after its initial harvest, is catching on with urban orchard organizations nationally. On June 11th & 18th, POP held its first gleaning-related events, with approximately 25 volunteers roaming the UPenn campus to harvest their deep red Serviceberries (Amelanchier varieties, also known by names like Juneberry and Shadbush).

One of the first fruits to ripen in spring, the serviceberry looks and tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a cherry. But is more nutritious than either.  It’s delicious fresh, baked into pies and cakes, frozen for smoothies, or cooked down into jam.

Some of POP’s abundant harvest went home with volunteers, and the rest was sold to Li’l Pop Shop in West Philly. There, the culinary craftswomen transformed the fruit into serviceberry goat cheese POPsicles, and then donated a portion of the proceeds back to POP for planting new orchards.

As the season progresses, we will be seeking other fruit trees  to glean, and looking for Delaware Valley orchards and commercial kitchens to host gleaning and cooking events. Please check the volunteer section of our website, and feel free to contact Robyn Mello (robyn@phillyorchards.org) with any questions or ideas! 

Neighborhood volunteers planting at Solid Rock Church in North Philly!
Orchard Plantings.  POP’s core mission of planting new community orchards in the city continues to expand.  Over 200 volunteers joined with our partners at 9 orchard planting events this spring.  A brand new orchard was planted at Solid Rock United Methodist Church in North Philly in a partnership with Solid Rock and Project for Sacred Places. We expanded current orchard sites at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center, Overbrook School for the Blind, Strawberry Mansion, Awbury Arboretum, Greenfield Elementary, Walnut Hill Community Farm, Teens 4 Good Lighthouse Farm, and the Rivera Rec Center. To read more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.
Orchard Education.  In addition to teaching volunteers about planting and harvesting, POP held workshops this spring on eco-orchard care, compost tea, pruning, permaculture, berry production, and beneficial insects.  Interested? Join Philadelphia Orchard Group (PHOG), our expanded listserv that now features POP TIPS on special topics like neem oil, bird protection, and bagging fruit. (groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/phog).
Worm finding crew at the 6th annual Woodford Strawberry Festival!
Sedgley Fundraiser. Last month, POP friends and supporters gathered in picturesque East Fairmount Park, where we held a fundraiser at the Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course. Event attendees noshed on delicious food & drink donated by local businesses, toured ruins of The Cliffs House, participated in an exciting raffle, and received lessons on how to chip, putt, and drive a disc by our kind hosts, the Friends of Sedgley Woods (FSW). As their director John says, it was a wonderful day of “Friends helping friends.” We are looking forward to going back in the fall to plant some fruit in their corner of the woods!
We are so grateful for the support of our many in-kind donors and our sponsors: Primex Garden CenterThree Springs Fruit FarmGreen Light Plants, and Northern Liberties Mailbox Store.

Orchard Report: Tertulias

Tertulias Herb Garden is taking its place in the barrio one day at a time. It is amazing to see the space change every minute. It could be the developing of a new planting area with all the struggles and triumphs that come with it. It could be a new visitor and his or her stories and anecdotes. It could be a new sign, or the growth of the plants. Tertulias is full of change.

Tertulias Herb Garden is a healing oasis in West Kensington dedicated to the practice and preservation of Puerto Rican herbal tradition. POP helped establish Tertulias’ roots in 2007 when it collaborated with Grupo Motivos to plant the orchard on a formerly vacant lot. The fruit trees grew on their own for several years, until the herb garden was developed in 2013. Iris Brown, a world-renowned gardener who has lived and gardened in the neighborhood for over 30 years, founded Tertulias. Along with family members, neighbors and support from the Community Health Collaborative, Iris enhanced the orchard lot with medicinal herbs and ornamental plants.

Medicinal herb workshop at Tertulias in April 2014

Grounded in Latino gardening tradition, Tertulias now provides a space to rest and recover from daily trauma and share life’s ups and downs in a colorful, friendly, family-oriented environment. “Tertulias” is a Spanish word meaning, “a gathering where people share and discuss ideas.” The garden was given this name for its purpose as a  hub of learning and healing in the community. Due to generations of violence and trauma in the neighborhood, people are very “apretada,” or wound up. The plants in Tertulias Herb Garden are able to heal and bring relief. People can connect with plants using all five senses, which can help them recall positive memories and bring them to the present moment to recover from previous traumatic experiences.

Tertulias values and affirms Latino traditions, including cooking and healing with fresh herbs, such as oregano brujo, cilantrillo, limoncillo, recao, and rue. Tertulias keeps culture alive among Latinas who have immigrated to the U.S. and whose traditional foods are not as accessible. Having a place around the corner to pick fresh herbs to cook and cure with is crucial for maintaining culture and healthy lifestyles.

The orchard includes pawpaws, service berries, cherries, apples, pears, and plums. These trees fill the back of the lot, creating a restful, shaded area and a relief from the busyness of 2nd Street. Neighbors poured to the site this Spring for the sweet and sour cherries, and were limited to 20 cherries each to make sure there were enough to go around.

The fruiting paw paw trees at Tertulias are a hit with the neighbors!

Tertulias features POP’s first producing pawpaw trees in the city, a true highlight of the garden.  A native to eastern temperate forests, paw-paws are the most northern-growing plant in the custard apple family (same as cherimoya and guanábana). Its close relation to tropical fruits makes it popular with many in the Tertulias neighborhood.

So many people come to the space and say, “I remember by grandmother using this,” or “I haven’t seen this since I was a child in Puerto Rico.” Tertulias allows people to remember themselves, their histories, and the places they come from. In doing so, the garden keeps alive the wisdom of ancestors who recognized, cultivated, and prepared medicinal plants. Restoring these traditions not only affirms people’s cultural ancestry but also creates a way to be self-sufficient and to rely on their interaction with the natural world for health and healing.

Orchard Report by Marian Dalke, POP Orchard Committee, and Iris Brown, Tertulias founder. 

Get Engaged!
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Donate to help plant new orchards this fall! 
This fall POP expects to be planting new orchards with the Philadelphia Prison System in NE Philly; with Teens 4 Good at Gorgas Park in Roxborough; at Urban Creators farm in North Philly; at Tablespread farm in West Philly; and on UPenn campus.  Consider a direct donation to POP of any size to ensure we have the resources to complete these new plantings:
$10 will buy a raspberry bush for Urban Creators in North Philly
$25 will buy a blueberry bush for the Teens 4 Good Orchard at Gorgas Park
$50 will buy a pear tree for Tablespread Farm in West Philly
Join POP’s Committees 
We’re always looking for more good volunteers for POP’s operating committees!  To help our Education Committee with developing new educational materials and curriculum, please contact Robyn Mello (robyn@phillyorchards.org).  To assist our Fundraising Committee with grantwriting, organizing fundraising events, or info about hosting a house party for POP, please contact Kim Jordan (kjordan@phillyorchards.org).  Experienced volunteers are invited to join POP’s Orchard Committee and work directly with our orchard partners; for more info contact Phil Forsyth (phil@phillyorchards.org).
One morning’s berry harvest at West Philly’s Ogden Orchard!

Volunteer at Orchard Plantings and EventsTo receive updates about upcoming volunteer opportunities, please sign up for our volunteer list on our website (phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup). You can also view a list of events on our homepage.

Please use the forward email function below to send this newsletter to friends and family who are interested in our mission to plant and support community orchards in the city of Philadelphia.

Phil Forsyth, Director
Philadelphia Orchard Project

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.