The first day I interned with POP was at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. It was the first day of March and incidentally the morning after my beloved dog passed on. We started many perennial seeds in the Federation of Neighborhood Centers’ greenhouse space, and it felt like a good way to honor the cycle of birth, reproduction, and death. I believe this is what growing food does: it allows us to fully accept the truths of life, co-create with the Earth, and find meaning. Especially in the chaos and bustle of the city, when I arrive to an orchard site I am greeted by smiling faces and waving fruit trees, immediately feeling at home and safe. I get to meet people from each orchard neighborhood, hear about their lives and perspectives, and forge bonds while pruning, planting, and harvesting from fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs.
Those seeds we planted the first day of March have sprouted and grown quite big since then, moved out of their trays and pots and into their new homes in orchards all across Philadelphia with trees, vines and shrubs, we potted from bare roots at POP’s Awbury Arboretum nursery. Orchards take patience, but I know the plum trees and blackberry bushes I helped to temper this spring at orchard sites will soon produce and give generously to those who give attention and care to their sweet fruits. I have learned a tremendous amount about all of the various fruit-bearing trees that we can grow in Philadelphia, from the common fruits like apples, peaches, and cherries to fruits I had never heard of before like juneberries and pawpaws. I’ve learned how to identify many by their bark, flowers, and fruits through direct experience and writing blog posts–even though taste tests are my favorite way of getting to know the plant! On top of this I have learned many common weeds to eat or remove, pests and how to manage them, diseases from which trees can suffer, and how to generally care for the trees and their homes.
We are in the peak of summer now, and plums, peaches, apples, blackberries, and raspberries are all ripening. Sweet fruits of our combined efforts are coming to fulfillment! I am so grateful to be cultivating deep-rooted relationships with plants, with people, and with communities who surround them. When we gather around to plant, it’s not just a tree that grows, but the whole community grows together. Through this work, we are strengthening our ties to each other and the Earth.