POP 2017 Winter Newsletter

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“At first my volunteer group was hesitant, saying they had never heard of the fruit, but I think everyone there eventually tried the goumi berries, and this had an interesting effect. We began to talk about fruits we liked growing up, remembering what plants our families grew in their gardens, and sharing almost forgotten herbal home remedies for illnesses our parents gave to us. The time we spent in the orchard that day helped us get to know each other more and brought us closer together.”                                   — Leslie Cerf, Awbury Arboretum

We thank you for supporting our vision of a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia!

Here are some highlights from our fall 2017 season:

  • Planted our 1099th fruit tree and supported our 56th community orchard site!
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at KleinLife community center, Jewish Farm School, and Monumental Baptist Church
  • Partnered with the West Philly Tool Library to make orchard tools & equipment more accessible
  • Involved over 2000 volunteers and participants in 59 events including orchard plantings, work days, workshops, tours, harvests, and festivals
  • Celebrated our 6th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with harvest festivals and other events at orchard sites across the city!

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way.  

Young volunteers help with food forest plantings at Penn Park in fall 2016!


POP is 10 Years Old!

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.

Ten years ago, POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth and others were inspired by Paul Glover’s original 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, we take pride on the progress we’ve made towards this original vision and 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 neighborhoods lacking access to fresh fruit.  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.


POP’s very first planting way back in 2007!

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


Fall 2016 Summary

Orchard Plantings. POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 56 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city!  230 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 16 orchard planting events this fall.  Brand new orchards were planted with the KleinLife community center, Jewish Farm School, and Monumental Baptist Church. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Lea Elementary, Penn Alexander School, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Overbrook School for the Blind, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts & Humanities, Awbury Arboretum, Historic Fair Hill, Woodford Mansion, Penn Park, Francisville, and Bartram’s Garden. To read more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.

Harvest, Gleaning & Preservation. Eight POPHarvest gleaning events were held during our summer and fall 2016 season, where an estimated 5,000 pounds of fruit were picked by volunteers for take home and for donation to emergency food pantries, transition houses, churches, and partner organizations throughout the city. Many additional pounds of apples went into fresh cider pressed at various harvest festivals and Orchard Week events! POP staff, interns, and volunteers gleaned apples, peaches, and pears from a local commercial you-pick orchard; Asian pears from streets and backyards; mulberries, plums, and apricots from one of our partner orchards; and trifoliate oranges from historic sites. Stay up to date with 2017 harvesting events and become part of growing this program to make use of underutilized fruits by becoming a member of the POPHarvest listserv.

Orchard Education.  POP continues to educate our orchard partners through diverse offerings including orchard care workshops, consulting visits by POP staff, POP TIPS shared through the Philadelphia Orchard Group (PHOG), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project Blog. In January 2017, POP hired two-time Education & Outreach intern Alyssa Schimmel to serve part-time as POP’s Education Director.  In collaboration with POP’s 10 school partner sites, POP will create orchard-based lessons to implement into the classroom with elementary, middle, and high school students. Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia will be the first committed pilot site. POP plans to build a network of educators throughout the city for educational resource sharing and curriculum development. Please email alyssa@phillyorchards.org if you would like to join a committee of dynamic and inspired agricultural educators.

Please join us for our upcoming Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop on March 11 and learn more about the launch of POP’s 4-part Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course Wednesdays in March at Bartram’s Garden beginning March 8th.


POP workshops this fall included biochar, compost tea, and ecosystem design!

6th Annual Philadelphia Orchard Week.  This year we celebrated Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1600 participants at orchard sites across the city. Events included orchard plantings, harvest festivals, apple picking, cider pressing, a plant sale, crafts and games, volunteer opportunities, and more!  POP also loaned out our new cider press for fall harvest festivals at the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Heritage Farm, Walnut Hill Farm, CHOP Karabots, Francisville, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, and the Pour the Core Cider Fest.


2016 POP Orchard Survey Results

Results of our 4th annual partner survey provide valuable feedback showing the impact of POP’s programs and guiding our future efforts towards continued improvement. Orchards were again valued most highly as educational spaces and over 4800 people participated in educational programs at POP orchards, up 38% from the previous year! Another 4600 tasted something grown in a POP orchard and 4300 used them as a gathering space in 2016. The survey again showed that almost all orchard produce is distributed within the neighborhood where it’s grown, including 44% harvested directly by community members. POP partners reported orchard yield totals for the year 38% higher than in 2015—over 5,000 pounds. Combined with another 5,000 pounds volunteers picked in our POPHarvest program, that makes for a lot of fruit!  82% of POP partners participated in the survey this year and as a thank you, POP is distributing a requested orchard item, including pruning tools, pole harvesters, produce scales, and guidebooks to all participants.

Read more survey results here!

Together, POP’s community orchards and POPharvest program yielded over 10,000 pounds of fresh fruit this year!

2016 Orchard Partner Stories

Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the year in the orchard, and to share with us stories about what the orchard is providing for their community.

Overbrook School for The Blind

“Our students were able to taste figs for the first time from our fig tree. They would check the tree almost daily to get the figs before the squirrels! In late November, we made fig jam with the students. To quote our student, Elijah, when he tasted the jam: ‘It’s the bomb dot com!’”

— Roseann McLaughlin

Read more partner stories here!


Orchard Update: PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts

Tucked away on an unassuming side street in North Philly, a large portion of the vacant lots on the west side of the 2500 block of North Warnock Street are buzzing with life and innovation. What once was a series of crumbling rowhomes is now a hub of outdoor learning for young people interested in self-sufficiency, regenerative systems, and improving their connection to the earth through PhillyEarth, a program of the Village of Arts & Humanities.

Read more about the PhillyEarth Orchard here!


POP and Phillyearth transformed vacant lots into a food forest this year!


POP Has a New Home

POP is excited to announce our move into our very first office at The Woodlands, a 54-acre historic landscape that was once a one-of-a-kind 18th-century English pleasure garden, 19th-century rural cemetery, and a modern green oasis for its neighbors in bustling University City and West Philadelphia. We are still working on furnishing our office; please email phil@phillyorchards.org if you’re able to donate any of the following items in good working order:

  • printer/copier/scanner
  • computers (desktop or laptop)
  • space heater


Our new office space at Hamilton Mansion at The Woodlands! The ceiling may be low, but that won’t stop us from growing!

Annual Appeal Update

Thank you again to everyone who helped us during our annual appeal campaign this year! Together we were able to raise $18,552, which supports our work maintaining these community spaces of beauty and bounty, educating volunteers and orchard enthusiasts, and installing new orchards in the city of Philadelphia. We are still just shy of our $20,000 goal, and you can help us get there by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Other Ways You Can Help! 

Your Amazon purchases can benefit POP. . . at no cost to you. 

You can direct Amazon to give a percentage of all purchases to POP

Workplace donations through United Way, Earthshare, Benevity

POP can now accept workplace donations via United Way (#53494), Earthshare, and Benevity: ask your employer about how to set up tax-exempt contributions and matching donations to support our work. We are also now able to accept stock transfers (email phil@phillyorchards.org), so you can divest. . . and then invest in planting the future with POP!

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 blog content, educational materials and curriculum, please contact Alyssa Schimmel (alyssa@phillyorchards.org).  To assist our Events Committee with organizing fundraising events or helping with outreach activities, please contact Tanya Grinblat (tanya@phillyorchards.org).  Experienced volunteers are invited to join POP’s Orchard Committee and work directly with our orchard partners; for more info contact Robyn Mello (robyn@phillyorchards.org).

Volunteer at Orchard Plantings and Events

POP’s fall event season will be announced soon!  To receive updates about upcoming volunteer opportunities, please sign up for our volunteer list on our website (phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup).



Plant a fruit tree in celebration of a loved one for holidays, birthdays, and other occasions!