All this year we will be celebrating the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary!  Each month we’ll look back at a different year in our history and recognize the efforts of some of our extraordinary volunteers.  Stay tuned for announcements about a series of events to celebrate our big milestone!

POP's very first orchard planting with the Youth Leadership Council of the United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia in spring 2007.
POP’s very first orchard planting with the Youth Leadership Council of the United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia in spring 2007.

Ten years ago today I attended the first POP potluck meeting at founder Paul Glover’s home, held on January 26, 2007.  I was inspired by Paul’s vision of a Philadelphia Orchard Project that would plant vacant lots and other city spaces with fruit trees to feed hungry Philadelphians.  In looking back on this important anniversary, I take pride on the progress we’ve made in working towards this original vision and in transitioning it to a fully realized organization.  In our first ten years, POP has planted almost 1,100 fruit trees and currently supports a total of 56 community orchards in the city, primarily in low-wealth neighborhoods lacking access to fresh fruit.

It has been amazing to be a part of the growth of POP from a vision, to a start up lead by volunteer efforts, to an organization with the capacity and capability of actual staff.  This year POP staff Phil, Robyn, and Tanya were joined by two paid intern positions and our first ever Orchard Apprentice, Alkebu-lan Marcus.  The expansion of POP’s staff, through the generous support of foundations and individuals, has allowed us to continue to expand our impact.

We are proud to have planted 5 new community orchards and involved 1,330 volunteers and 3,382 total participants in planting, caring for, and celebrating community orchards in 2016. POP staff expanded our educational offerings, including workshops on organic pest management, mushroom cultivation, and a 4 part urban ecosystem design course. Our POPHarvest gleaning program harvested over 5,000 pounds of produce donated to volunteers and local food cupboards. We celebrated our first ever Juneberry Joy week in the spring and our 6th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week in October with harvest festivals and other events at orchard sites across the city.  Our partners reported to us that 2,200 individuals participated in orchard care and over 4,600 tasted something grown in a POP orchard last year.

Volunteers planting at POP's newest orchard, Monumental Baptist Church, in fall 2017.
Volunteers planting at POP’s newest orchard, Monumental Baptist Church in fall 2016.

2017 is going to be another pivotal year for POP’s growth!  We have just hired a new part-time Education Director, Alyssa Schimmel, who among other things will be working directly with our 10 school orchard partners in the city and will be developing a series of orchard-based lesson plans.  We also have big plans for a new urban orchardist certification program to help train our orchard partners and volunteers.  What’s more, in February 2017, we expect to move into POP’s first ever office space at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia!

We are proud of the impact of our community orchards in bringing beauty and bounty to neighborhoods and helping to build a new culture of fresh food in the city.  I am personally grateful for the efforts of all our staff, partners, volunteers, and supporters and look forward to seeing Philadelphia continue to grow as a city of fruit for all!

-Phil Forsyth, Executive Director

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